Last night, I watched Good Will Hunting for the Nth time (I love this movie) and when the famous bench scene (below) came up, I realized two things. The first of them being that this is definitely my favorite role Robin Williams has ever taken on. His quiet intensity during the scene is something that's breathtaking.
And the second thing I realized was that scene in particular gets so much right about the meaning of loss and it expands to the way we examine the world around us. There's something magical about this moment -- I usually don't like monologues by the way -- and it really resonates with me on a personal level.
I've spent most [see: all] of my life in one place. In the same suburban New York town. I've made friends and lost them. I've fallen in and out of love there. I've read and re-read books there. My experiences are based in a world that I've never actually, truly experienced.
I am a lot like Will Hunting in the scene above (if we divorce it from the rest of the film and his character arc), everything I know about the world I've read in a book. I couldn't tell you what the sand in Rome's Colosseum feels like. I couldn't tell you what a cherry blossom's petal feels like. I couldn't even begin to understand what it means to earnestly love someone else.
I have lived in my own world for so long it feels alien, strange, and scary to venture out of it (I mean this metaphorically. If you bought me a plane ticket to another country, I'd leave in a heartbeat). I don't know what it means to truly lose something because I have never loved anything more than I love myself [this is a fact].
Here's a transcript of the monologue if you don't have the time to watch the clip above:
So if I asked you about art you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientation, the whole works, right? But I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seen that. If I asked you about women you’d probably give me a syllabus of your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. I ask you about war, and you’d probably, uh, throw Shakespeare at me, right? “Once more into the breach, dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap and watched him gasp his last breath, looking to you for help. And if I asked you about love you probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone could level you with her eyes. Feeling like! God put an angel on earth just for you… Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel and to have that love for her to be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. You wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in a hospital room for two months holding her hand because the doctors could see in your eyes that the term visiting hours don’t apply to you.
You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.
I look at you; I don’t see an intelligent, confident man; I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and you ripped my fuckin’ life apart. You’re an orphan right? Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what? I can’t learn anything from you I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t wanna do that, do you, sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.