by Pat Nogoy SJ
The Beauty of Faulty Stars
Despite it being a shout out to the void, Augustus profession of love to Hazel Grace is not without real meaning. Meaning finds its concrete existence in the encounter between the lover and Beloved. Meaning is the fruit of lovers revealed as beautiful in love. What is prior, primary, and primordial is the sustained encounter between the lover and Beloved. If inverted, the quest for meaning can be an obstacle in overcoming life’s painful givens. Demanding reasons and justifications for our suffering, though important, paralyzes us in an either/or condition of the absence of meaning. In surmounting this condition, one suspends the quest for meaning.
Augustus’s propensity to live in the moment is not an optimistic or even a romantic kind of thinking. His experiences of falling in love with terminally ill patients are not exactly masochistic. He does not deny, hide, or fill the absence of meaning in suffering. Neither does he surrender and give up. Instead, he chooses to welcome life, receiving it as it is. In doing so, life gifts him with a revelation of beauty in its infinity: Hazel Grace. Both of them, in receiving one of life’s cruel givens, decide to grant each other through their love, a transformative lived experience of the beautiful. In spite of fragile existence and faulty givens, Hazel Grace and Augustus share an infinite love, shining even after death. Hazel Grace best captures it, when she says, “You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” Suddenly, in the end, meaning fills up the life of Hazel Grace. Meaning has been endowed as a gift of love.
Martin Heidegger once wrote in a love letter to Hannah Arendt that we could only be grateful for the Beloved’s existence. In front of the beautiful, the lover can only face and revere his Beloved and be grateful. Gratitude as second moment is the beginning of thinking. Only then will meaning flow as an unending stream of reason, value, and worth, filling up and creating the person anew. Yet, more than the gift of meaning is the inspiration to continually discover, receive, and light up the beautiful glow of infinity bursting from life itself. As Albert Camus once mused, when you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. From Caroline Mathers to Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters hears no other calling than welcoming life’s infinity and setting it alight in the present with total love. He proves that life’s cruel givens are only tiny parts of its beauty; that the darkness of death is never empty of lights even if they only flicker. These flickers of light—stars—though fragile and faulty in their twinkling, are small apertures within which the hidden infinity suddenly breaks out and reveals itself.
I am in love with you, and I am not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. In the twilight of life, Augustus affirms what is real: the love between the beloved and lover. Love reveals itself, without glamour and glitter, in the beloved and lover as they are. Love takes what life has given and creates them anew. Love redeems life’s painful givens, revealing infinite life behind the dark veil of suffering and death. Being born into the world therefore means welcoming life’s infinite beauty with much love.
Life is beautiful in love.