I know I say this nearly every time, but I love this movie. I LURV it!
I listed this as a favorite on the 2011 Movie Quote Monday page, but it’s quite long so I never used it in a post. But last Thursday I heard an interview with Clay Morgan in which this particular quote was mentioned, and now I can’t get it out of my head. So, I decided to share my brains with you. You’re welcome.
Apparently, he referenced this scene in his new book, Undead. I haven’t gotten to it in the book yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Clay uses this quote. I can’t begin to get into Undead in a couple of sentences here, but it examines the fact that we can live without really being alive. I can see that idea playing out in Stranger Than Fiction.
So, if you haven’t seen this movie, then you should. But in the meantime, you need to know that Harold has begun hearing a woman’s voice in his head, narrating his life. As confusing as that is to him, it takes on new significance when she announces Harold’s “imminent death”. In his search to find a cure for this little problem, he meets a literature professor who is more interested in the literary quality of the narrative than in Harold’s fate.
Professor Hilbert: You were right. This narrator might very well kill you, so I humbly suggest that you just forget all this and go live your life.
—Harold: Go live my life? I am living my life. I’d like to continue to live my life.
Professor Hilbert: *signs* I know. Of course. I mean all of it. However long you have left. You know, I mean, Harold, you could use it to have an adventure. You know, invent something, or just finish reading Crime and Punishment. Hell, Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
—Harold: What’s wrong with you? Hey. I don’t wanna eat nothing but pancakes. I wanna live. Who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living…chooses pancakes?
Professor Hilbert: Harold, if you’d pause to think, I believe you’d realize that that answer’s inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led…and of course, the quality of the pancakes. You don’t understand what I’m saying.
—Harold: Yes, I do. But you have to understand that this isn’t a philosophy or a literary theory or a story to me. It’s my life.
Professor Hilbert: Absolutely. So just go make it the one you’ve always wanted.
This really is a beautiful movie, about a man who was living a painfully ordinary life. When something extraordinary occurs in that nearly lifeless existence, he chooses to turn his life into the one he wants. And when the time comes to make a much harder decision, he chooses life once again, in a profound way.
Choosing to live the life you always wanted isn’t easy. For one thing, some of us can’t define for ourselves what that even looks like. And when we think we do know, that just leads to more work, more effort and sometimes even pain. And, you know, I like pancakes; pancakes sound pretty good, right?
What I think is there are plenty of people out there choosing pancakes.
These last few weeks, I’ve been aching to get a tattoo of the word “choose”. Because I do – I choose every day, every hour, every moment. I choose what kind of life I want to live, what kind of person I want to be. What physical and spiritual nourishment I put into my body. I choose how I treat myself and others.
I am constantly choosing who I am.
I don’t always choose well, but at least I stopped ordering the pancakes.
So, what do you think?
Can it be as simple as choosing to live your life to the fullest – at least within the limits of your capabilities?
Or is it way more complicated than that?