Ruining Our Lives for an Ideal

Certified Copy A few days ago, I finally caught the film Certified Copy at the local art cinema.  Directed and written by Iranian Abbas Kiarostami and starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, the movie is an afternoon-long discussion by a man and a woman as they visit a Tuscan town.  Their conversation covers a lot of ground and it is never clear whether they are or are not a married couple.

As the story opens, we see that he is an author in town on a Saturday afternoon for a speaking engagement about his new book, in which he argues that copies of masterpieces are as valuable as the originals themselves, in that the copies can bring us to the originals and a greater appreciation of them.  She is in the audience but has to leave early, giving her number to the organizer of the event.  

The following morning, he shows up at her shop and she drives him to a nearby town to see a famous painting there that was, after hundreds of years being assumed to be an original work, determined eventually to be a copy.  It is on that journey that their conversation happens.

I won’t talk about the film as a whole, although it is worth watching.  What struck me, so much so that I grabbed a notepad from my bag and scribbled it down, was a phrase uttered by a secondary character. 

The man and woman stop for a coffee at a small shop.  The man steps outside to take a phone call and the old lady running the shop speaks with the woman.  She assumes that the man and woman are married, an assumption the woman does nothing to dispel.  In fact, the woman complains about her husband’s long absences for work, propensity to shave only every other day, and his other faults.

The old woman running the shop observes that it is a Sunday morning and the man has taken his wife out for some coffee, whereas most men would instead choose to sleep in.  “It would be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal,” she admonishes the woman.

It would be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal.

That line seems a very apt piece of advice, both about relationships (certainly!) as well as our lives in general.  It also seems to balance nicely the entry I recently wrote about being the best possible version of ourselves.  While perfection cannot be achieved and we should certainly strive to be our best, what is the value of striving if the cost is the ruination of our lives?


0 thoughts on “Ruining Our Lives for an Ideal

  1. I really don’y know if striving is the ruination of our lives. And if it is, whether we ruin it or not, along the way we must of learned something. And basically, thats what life is truly all about.

  2. What an interesting follow up to your other post. I think each of us has that line between the ideal / perfection and our own lives. I had a friend who gave 10% of his salary to his church but it was creating all sorts of financial challenges for him. He finally reduced that amount to something more manageable and within his means.

  3. This is such a good and philosophical way to look at things in general. In the pursuit of doing things as the way the world expects us to, we foolishly lose our perspective of doing the right things and enjoying them. Great post Chris.

  4. @Devilzgaysianboi – Nice new profile pic.  Yes, I would recommend it.  If you’ve seen the Ethan Hawke movies “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”, they are in that vein, although there’s a little more uncertainty to this one – are they married or are they not?

  5. Hehe! She was the actress in the French film Cache… I have to agree that many people are so focused on the end goal that they miss out on the journey – only to find the journey was the whole point.

  6. @murisopsis –  I think you summed it up really well.Really good post, Chris. I also really liked the way you wrote it. I guess you’re saying that complaining about ‘how things aren’t’ only results in us feeling bad about ourselves, when in the meantime we could be focusing on and enjoying the positives. Seems like there’s a choice to be made, in every moment we have, between choosing enjoyment and choosing dissatisfaction.

  7. I like the phrase and it does go well with your previous post. I feel I try to balance my reality with idealism. I am a perfectionist. I know that drives me to ruin at times and need to draw back and settle down. One of my friends suggested I don’t clean my desk – it is always perfectly clean and neatly stacked. I lasted two days. I think it was Margaret Mead who said, “You just have to learn not to care about te dust-mice under the beds.”

  8. It would be stupid of us to ruin our lives for an ideal??? arent most of the people stupid?? lol i just want to be a silly guy once a while XD

  9. @marc11864 – Marc, I’d imagine that we can determine what our best is by pushing ourselves harder than we ever thought we could.  Not “push ourselves” in terms of unrelenting self-criticism, but rather in terms of facing challenges and struggles we didn’t think we had the strength to face.  For some, it might be pursuing an educational goal, for others it might be entering into a relationship, and for others it might be leaving their home to move across the ocean.@lcfu – I think there are many people who stubbornly stick to an ideal, much past the point where it is really worth doing so.@ItsWhatEyeKnow – It really does give you something to chew on, doesn’t it?@Fatcat723 – Your example has me laughing, Rob.@stepaside_loser – Great peace comes from learning to accept, and be satisfied with, what you have.  Looking only at what is missing, what you wish you had, leads to suffering.@CareyGLY – Her acting has always been wonderful.  I’m sure some of her movies were less than perfect, though.@murisopsis – Funnily, that’s something that’s always puzzled me about the protestant faiths.  So much emphasis on getting your rewards in heaven and so little emphasis on finding joy while on Earth.@ANVRSADDAY – Interesting question.  Hmmm… I would imagine there are ideals worth fighting and dying for, certainly.  But stubbornly clinging to an ideal – an impossible perfection, for example – as it ruins your life, hardly seems worthwhile.@ThePrince – Thank you for the recommendation, Michael.  That last line probably IS something we should all ask ourselves.@ZSA_MD – Thank you for the recommendation, Dr. Zakiah.  So, in other words, you are saying we should stop and smell the roses, right?  (Such as the beautiful ones in your garden!)@Passionflwr86 – Thank you for the recommendation, Meg.  I’m glad the post came at an opportune time for you.@ElusiveWords – Matt, that’s a perfect real-life illustration of the point.  Thanks for sharing it.@Roadlesstaken – That’s a good point, Alex.  How often to we cling to a position only to later realize that it wasn’t all that worthy a banner to wave?@The_Eyes_Of_A_Painter – I think that striving does not have to becom ruinous, certainly.  But there are those of us who become so focused on one goal, one ideal, one perfection that we want to achieve, that we manage to through our lives out of balance.

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