Woody Allen on Aging

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If there is one thing we associate with Woody Allen, it is probably his wit. The screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician has succeeded in provoking thought for nearly fifty years. Unfortunately, Allen isn’t enjoying old age, according to Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian (UK). “It’s a bad business,” says the 76-year-old filmmaker. “It’s a confirmation that the anxieties and terrors I’ve had all my life were accurate. There’s no advantage to aging. You don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t see life in a more glowing way. You have to fight your body decaying, and you have less options.”

Allen has reached a conclusion; actually, it’s been his modus operandi for decades: to manage the horror of mortality one must above all “remain distracted.” “The only thing you can do is what you did when you were 20—because you’re always walking with an abyss right under your feet; they can be hoisting a piano on Park Avenue and drop it on your head when you’re 20—which is to distract yourself.” Allen confesses, this is why he attempts to make a new film every year or two—it stops him from dwelling on death. “Getting involved in a movie [occupies] all my anxiety. ‘Did I write a good scene for Cate Blanchett?’ If I wasn’t concentrated on that, I’d be thinking of larger issues. And those are unresolvable, and you’re checkmated whichever way you go.”

Allen’s candid remarks bring to mind a lecture I once heard during seminary. In view of the massive demographic of men and women whose lives are busy from morning to night without so much as a moment to consider life’s meaning, Professor Richard Lints proposed that we view such people as “sleepwalkers” who need to be awakened. These folks are “tuned out” from the things of God. Our calling is to engage them.

And how might we effectively awaken such people? One way is to ask thought-provoking questions. “What motivates you to do what you do?” Another approach is to ask sleep-walkers for input on how to combat the existential din within. Such honest questions have the potential to open the eyes of one’s soul, like smelling-salt in your nostrils, to recognize the eternal light of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

May the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:14 apply to Woody Allen and every other sleepwalker: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”    

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