Simon Pegg is hands down one of my top five favourite actors. From Shaun of the Dead, to Hot Fuzz, to Star Trek, to The World’s End, he has shown such a knack for capturing the span of human emotions. My new fave of his is Hector and the Search For Happiness (Disclaimer: these films typically have violence and profanity, so watch at your own discretion.)
In Hector and the Search For Happiness, Pegg plays Hector—a psychiatrist who is at a crossroads. Everything in his life is a meticulously predictable routine. Hector also has a girlfriend of ten years named Clara (Rosamund Pike). They are seemingly perfect together, but Clara is trying to confront Hector about the idea of having children, and Hector is wrapped up in his work—almost hypnotized by the sterility of his everyday routines. Hector eventually has a panic attack and gets very angry at one of his patients. In a knee-jerk reaction, he decides to take a spontaneous trip across the globe to research what makes people happy. First, he spends time with a wealthy businessman in China exploring the hedonistic lifestyle that some think makes them happy. After China, Hector treks into the bush of Africa to do humanitarian work with a friend. During his stay in Africa he is kidnapped and is forced to admit that his quest isn’t to understand happiness in the abstract sense, but to understand how his own happiness can be found. Over the course of his travels, he documents his observations about happiness. The one that struck hard for me was this:
Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.
During Hector’s last stop in Los Angeles, he meets up with a fellow psychiatrist studying the effects of happiness on the brain. Hector has lived his whole life up until this point trying to avoid being unhappy. Yet, this is the very thing that drives him into relational calamity. Pegg and Pike’s performance in the final moments of the movie made me gush with tears like a dam breaking into a million pieces.
No one can be happy by inoculating themselves from the presence of unhappiness.
My main fear in life can probably be boiled dow to this: the fear of being single. Being single has been the (pun intended) single most dealt with unfulfilled longing of my life. Being single when you don’t want to be sucks. Films like Hector and the Search For Happiness force me to confront my desire to one day have a significant other, and it usually ends with me in tears or writing lyrics to a really sappy song.
Here’s the deal. I don’t think the desire for companionship is inherently bad, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my fear of being single is largely based on fantastical scenarios. By living life based on fantasies, I’ve lost some of the allure of real life. I’ve lost sight of the vast world that Jesus created for me to enjoy. I’ve tried to avoid being unhappy by searching for happiness in the arms of a potential significant other, and not in the arms of Jesus.
Obviously, I learned a few things from this film.
No one can be happy by inoculating themselves from the presence of unhappiness. The truth is that I have to give up control of being single every day, and return my fear to its rightful place at the feet of Jesus. It’s not a happy happy joy joy kind of place. It’s hard, it’s painful, it’s full of suffering, but it’s the kind of pain and suffering that lead to something beautiful. A butterfly doesn’t just appear as is. It literally has to fight its way into the world. The only way Hector could grow into the man that he needed to be for Clara was through a series of high and low experiences. Both were necessary. This isn’t to say that suffering is what was meant to be from the beginning. God never meant for life to be this way, but He does take crappy things and use them for His glory.
When we experience pain and suffering it can point us to what we truly desire. Hector’s defining moment came when he had a vision of Clara marrying another man. He knew at that moment that all he wanted was Clara, but he had to change in order for things to work out with her. One purpose of suffering and pain for believers is that it serves as a wake up call. It’s a wake up call to relearn what it’s like to run to Jesus in times of sadness. It’s a call back to our first love. God doesn’t make bad things happen. He allows them to happen for our benefit. The benefit is that we have the opportunity to run to Him—to be swept up into His arms.
Companionship makes me happy, and maybe one day God will fulfill my desire to marry a wonderful woman. I don’t know what the outcome of that will be, but what I do know is that joy comes from following the path that Jesus has presently laid in front of me. He knows me. He knows what scares me, and He knows what comforts me the most. Instead of avoiding unhappiness like the early version of Hector, I can dwell in the joy of knowing that Jesus’ plan for me is the best-case scenario, and I can chase the essence of a life with Him.
So replace my fear of being single with whatever deep unfulfilled longing you have. Is that longing taking the place of your relationship with Jesus? Does the outcome of that longing change how you feel about God? Jesus is with us in the midst of our pain waiting for us to acknowledge Him.
Thanks Mr. Pegg for making me cry snot-filled tears, and laugh until it hurts. Cheers to more of that.