There is one part of Silver Linings Playbook that I find to be more important than the rest. It’s when Bradley Cooper’s bipolar character Patrick states his desire to forget the grievances of his past, find his “silver lining,” and reach “excelsior.”
Pat basically states that he seeks for happiness, which is similar to the central idea of my last post—about how heroes should work hard to triumph over their obstacles. Pat is a hero of great determination, who tries to go beyond the boundaries of his mental illness to find love and solace. More importantly, Pat’s goals fulfill what I believe to be the entire purpose of life itself: to find ways to change and become a better person.
At first, this whole conclusion may seem surprising because finding the purpose of life is such a broad and daunting pursuit. But in a way, we can support this conclusion though by looking at patterns that permeate throughout all human actions.
One of these patterns is the human desire for personal improvement.
When we look around the world, we see many people working hard to improve their current lives. We see people who read tons of books to try to become smarter (even if they end up throwing those books out the window.) Others try to learn specific arts like dance. Some even try to single-handedly combat mental illness. In a nutshell, the fact that the majority of people focus mainly on some sort of improvement shows that this is a primary goal in life. These “people” are all Pat, by the way.
However, human actions alone do not “prove” this purpose of life. If we look at something as simple as a movie, (particularly Silver Linings Playbook) we can observe that there are always characters like Pat trying to overcome a conflict. That type of rise, fall, and resolution format is what makes a movie a movie. The same can be said about life.
Granted, there are people the complete opposite of Pat, who do not wish to improve themselves personally and want to be the exact same person they were in elementary school. To some, the thought of “growing up” is something very scary and undesirable. Who wants to work hard for individual benefit if they can just live a comfortable life off of someone else? But in my opinion, the desire for this type of stagnated lifestyle is what causes people the most harm. It is what turns something as meaningful as life into something meaningless. Here’s a guide on how to avoid such circumstances:
1. Recognize that our ability to change is a gift. You don’t see animals being able to find the courage within them to accomplish the big thing. You see it within humans. Pat is the one who knows he can recover from illness and find love, not his dog. (Okay, I know he doesn’t actually have a dog. I was just trying to sound fancy.) This ability to find redemption is what makes us special and should therefore be preserved.
2. Be grateful. It’s impossible for someone to change without accepting the great people and things around them. Although Pat originally feels despair because of the events in his past, he is grateful for his family and friends and is then able to use their help as a means to go beyond what has happened.
3. Acknowledge your own flaws. Why would someone want to change if they don’t know what’s wrong with their actions? After all, if someone views themselves as perfect, they won’t find the purpose or the need in growing. Pat understands something within him is wrong. His mental illness even causes him to freak out when hearing a song on the radio. This understanding comes with the need for him to change.
4. Work hard. Personal initiative is the key when it comes to accomplishing a goal! Pat is not going to recover from illness by being lazy. He’s not going to find love without repeatedly searching for his passion.
He’s going to do all of this by seeking for a way to grow, something that will allow him to fulfill his purpose in life. He’s going to search for his silver lining and only then will he reach excelsior.