What's Your Endgame?

Avengers: Endgame is teeming with existential issues.

Posted May 02, 2019

Art by Alexi Berry. Used with permission.
Source: Art by Alexi Berry. Used with permission.

The movie Avengers: Endgame has broken box office records and for good reason: besides being part of the Marvel franchise, it is a good movie teeming with existential issues. This post uses themes and a few lines from the movie to explore this and how it relates to the reader, without giving anything away. 

Most I have spoken to agree it is an emotional movie. Endgame wraps up the Avengers series, and so in that alone, there is a sense of loss. Most people, when it comes to things they enjoy, do not ever want to see it end. Unlike its predecessor, Infinity War, where you could surmise from upcoming movie previews that some characters left dead would return somehow, this movie has more finality to it. It had been leaked that the star who plays Captain America said he was done with the Marvel Universe. It is evident by the end of the movie that the Avengers, as they were known in this incarnation, would be no more. For those who want what they enjoy going on forever (or at least until they become bored with it), this is a lesson in the impermanence of all things. 

Impermanence is an issue we all grapple with. Who doesn’t want their passionate love to be eternal, their partner to always be there for them, their friendships to last forever, their happiness not to fade, or their idea of the Avengers to persist? Impermanence reminds us nothing is forever. Everything ends. The only constant is change. Though cognitively this may be known, it is often difficult to accept. Yet, accepting impermanence can lead to more happiness

A second existential issue evident in Endgame comes down to the question, are you really living? The movie is an emotional rollercoaster. The remaining Avengers mourn their lost comrades from the previous movie. We get a glimpse of how some of the Avengers handle that. They experience hope. They fight. There is a sacrifice. The viewer gets to watch and vicariously experience some of what the characters experience. That is the beauty of movies. But what about your life, reader? Are you feeling it? Many people look to escape the emotions of life. Many want only the positive. But the full array of human emotion is what life is about. 

In the movie Captain America is told he should “get a life” by Tony Stark. The insinuation is that all he does is work, and he’s avoiding life. This is reminiscent of those seeking Zen. Brad Warner writes that retreats and meditation are not meant to be escapes from “the entanglements of real life” (p316). There was a quote recently tweeted from @mindfuleveryday, "Mindfulness is not about feeling better. It's about getting better at feeling."  Yet many seek to become detached from life, choosing unhealthy ways like substances, working excessively, Buddhist philosophy (though they may not truly understand the point of it), or simply numbing it through excessive time on technology (social media scrolling, binge-watching television). The point is many avoid truly living, fully experiencing the moment and all the emotions that come with it, and instead live vicariously through others.

As I’ve written before, many existential writers believe the majority of people exist, rather than truly live (see “Are you even being”, “Essential Freedom is Essentially Ignored”). The solution to this, in short, is to realize your life is limited. I recently wrapped up teaching a course in which the last topic is death awareness. Many of the students in their final papers quoted a video from that section. Kathleen Taylor, in her TEDx talk, states that a Bronnie Ware documented the top regret of the dying as wishing they “had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life that others expected of me” (6:08-6:15). Unfortunately, many more will come to the end of their life similarly. Will you? What is your end game? 

Copyright William Berry, 2019

References

Taylor, K., 2012., TEDx Talks, Rethinking the bucket list. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O8U8Pkod2n4

Warner, B., 2017., It came from beyond Zen., New World Library, Novato, CA.