There are many lessons we can all learn from John Green’s young-adult novel The Fault In Our Stars, which was recently adapted into a feature film. But if there is one important message that everyone should take away from the book, Tan Lili reckons it’s this.
For most parts of the movie, I was furiously blinking against the sting in my eyes and willing my lips to stop trembling. Then came the fake-eulogy scene. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’d know that at this point, resistance is futile. And so enter the puddle ocean of tears that washed away most of my not-really waterproof eyeliner.
This isn’t a review of the movie, because it’s a no-brainer that everyone has to watch this intense and profoundly brilliant masterpiece. This is about a very important life lesson all of us should know, even if you don’t intend to read the book or watch the movie.
Very briefly, The Fault In Our Stars is a beautiful story that revolves around two preternaturally mature teenagers – Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus “Gus” Waters – falling in love and grappling with loss and life’s uncertainties. It tackles the subject of cancer without glorifying it as most Hollywood depictions do (remember A Walk To Remember?); the author John Green forces you to confront mortality head-on with the constant reminder that life is no bed of roses, that “the world is not a wish-granting factory”. Death isn’t pretty, and it’s going to hurt like hell – especially for the ones left behind.
Lest you think The Fault In Our Stars is all gloom and doom, it isn’t. Quite the opposite, it is about hope – which, to me, is the most important lesson everyone one of us should take away from the story.
At the beginning, Gus feared oblivion; he wanted so badly to leave a mark so he’d be remembered after he was long gone. Hazel couldn’t disagree more. She told him, “There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you … There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.”
And this is where hope comes in. No matter how tightly we hold on to certain relationships, no matter how stable or solid they may be right now, they will fade into oblivion someday because nothing in life is guaranteed – except for moments. It is the right-now that is certain; we can either choose to wallow in despair because of the impermanent nature of life, or we can choose to celebrate and enjoy your right-now since it will pass anyway. The simple fact that it is within our power to find beauty in every moment gives us hope for a better future, no matter how short-lived it may be.
It seems wrong to quote someone unrelated to The Fault In Our Stars, but late actress-comedian Gilda Radner summed this up best:
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.
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