I wish I could tell you that today I want to focus on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche or discuss a movie like Citizen Kane maybe while sipping a dry martini. A whole sophisticated scenario. Instead I’d rather talk to you about that cult classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s more in line with my sensibilities.
For those of you who haven’t seen it and those of you who don’t remember it, the movie begins and ends with Matthew Broderick, who plays Ferris Bueller, looking directly into the camera and speaking to the audience. This movie is one of the first times I saw a performer breaking the fourth wall. It’s a technique employed by actors when they acknowledge the audience and bring them into the scene itself. It makes it personal, and that’s exactly what Ferris does when he looks at us and says,
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
People routinely recite the comedic lines from this movie, especially teachers. In a boring, monotone voice they will ask for an answer to their questions. If no one volunteers they will deadpan, “Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”
But there’s a lot of wisdom to be found woven amid all the shenanigans. Could it possibly be that Ferris Bueller, a suburban teenager, knows more than we do?
In the opening scene the high school senior is in bed with a well-thought out plan of action for staying out of school for the day. He insists that clammy hands are the key to success when feigning illness. A fever with a nervous mother could wind you up at the doctor’s which is worse than going to school. He has a plan of action with an eye toward risks and consequences. This is no random and impulsive decision to ditch.
And so begins the day. Yes, he’s reckless, and yes, he flouts the rules, but he seizes the day and the opportunities. He lives with gusto. Just like newspaperman and political commentator, H.L. Mencken, about whom it was said, “He seized each day, shook it to within an inch of its life, and then gaily went on to the next.”
Do we live too timidly? Are we wringing the zest from life or simply going through the motions? If we had the opportunity to ride on a parade float down the streets of Chicago as Ferris did, would we? If we had the chance to play hooky for a day, would we?
I’m not saying shirking responsibilities is always the right thing to do. I’m merely suggesting we usually regret the things we didn’t do, opportunities we didn’t take, more than the things we did do. And should fun always be at the bottom of our to-do list? If it comes down to it, which is more important, a sparkling clean house or enjoying good times and making good memories with loved ones?
So just like Ferris Bueller, I’ll mention it again. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”