In a recent interview with the Guardian, famous actor Anthony Hopkins startled many people with this honest assessment of living a life of fame:
“You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous, and I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there's nothing up there. Most of this is a nonsense, most of this is a lie, accept life as it is, just be thankful to be alive.”
It's a simplicity that often goes unnoticed. Lives that we so often envy are just as pot-marked and scarred by pain, suffering, struggle, and challenge as our own. Life brings tests even for the well-placed and well-heeled of society, and sometimes those of us who can’t stop imagining living in the lap of luxury that we believe stars are living in, should pause to be thankful that we don’t have to.
I was reminded of that when I saw the compassionate response that one of Hollywood’s classiest women gave to being trolled online. After a magazine cover recently quoted Heaton expressing gratitude for her Catholic upbringing as it taught her to expect suffering in this life, a Twitter troll named Abby pounced to harass her by demanding:
“Google tells me you’re worth $40 million. Sow what is it that you suffer from? Do tell.”
It was a catty, obnoxious, and envious jab that could have easily been dismissed or dressed down. Instead, the pro-life star took time to respond with sincerity:
“Hi Abby. Google is wrong. Re: suffering – my mom died suddenly when I was 12; I had depression and suicidal thoughts for a long time afterwards, needing therapy and medication. Career-wise, it took 17 years of struggle from college to Raymond. God Bless.”
To Abby’s credit, she deleted her comment. But Heaton’s response should remind us of two things:
- Grace is always possible, even when we feel justified in returning fire at another.
- Material prosperity is no balm for the sorrow that life in this fallen world brings to each of us.
Consider, Jimmy Kimmel has millions in the bank, and don’t you believe he would trade it all for his young son to be perfectly healthy? Along those lines, you need only read the words to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” to know that he would exchange every bit of his notoriety and every one of his awards to hold his toddler son again. The fame and prosperity of Patrick Swayze couldn’t cure his pancreatic cancer, and the cheering throngs of loving fans couldn’t silence the demons that haunted legendary funnymen John Belushi and Chris Farley.
Everyone has their struggles – and though we like to imagine that material possessions can alleviate some of them, they often introduce their own. So maybe taking the advice of a couple Hollywood stars is the best thing to do.
Hopkins knows the first step to a happy existence is just being thankful to be alive. But remember that isn’t an end to itself. The logical question that many would ask him is, “why?” Why be thankful? For that answer, Patricia’s got you covered: because suffering is the human condition, but we are loved by a Creator who offers us the free gift of dwelling for eternity in a place where there is none.
What pitiful and regrettable hubris it is to say, “no thanks.”