Failure to make decisions is a decision itself. Let me share a silly story from my early childhood. My mother took me to see a Bob Hope comedy. Near the beginning of the movie, I asked if I could go out and buy some candy, and my mother said yes. I had trouble making up my mind and when I returned to the movie, I found that it was at the same scene when I exited. I was gone for over an hour and I missed the entire movie.
Indecision is the catalyst of what transpires in Forever Young, a romance with a science-fiction twist. Daniel McCormick, an air force test pilot, has trouble making up his mind. He wants to ask his girlfriend, Helen, to marry him; but he cannot summon the courage to pop the question. While he debates within himself, fate intervenes and Daniel loses the opportunity to ask Helen to be his wife. His indecision is fatal. He misses his entire life with Helen.
Daniel’s story begins in 1939 when he is courting his beloved Helen. After a brief encounter at a local diner, Helen is involved in an accident, which leaves her in a long-lasting coma. The doctors think she will never recover; so after six months, Daniel volunteers for a cryonic freezing experiment in which he will be placed in suspended animation for a year. Thus, he will be spared the pain of witnessing Helen’s death.
He wakes up 53 years later to a new world with voice mail and planes that he only dreamt about many years earlier. Daniel attempts to find his old friend, Finley, who initiated the freezing experiment. He learns that he has died, but his daughter gives Daniel her father’s journals, which detail her father’s experiment and indicate that, once unfrozen, the aging process will kick in at an accelerated rate.
Things get tense when Daniel sees his body aging quickly and, at the same time, discovers that Helen is still alive. It is a race against time to find her before he succumbs to his inexorable aging process. Love, however, conquers all in this romantic fantasy, and it is gratifying to watch what transpires when Daniel and Helen, lovers from their youth, now reunite as seniors recognizing the deep soul connection that bound them together so many years ago.
As a teenager, I once heard a joke that kept me laughing for many days afterward. Here’s the joke: a man asked someone if he was a man of decision. The answer: “Well, yes and no.” The assumption behind the punch line was that while people outwardly want to be decisive, inwardly they often equivocate and don’t make up their minds.
Judaism discourages indecision. The rabbis of the Talmud grow to great lengths to get clarity, to pursue truth, to find the answers to difficult questions. They encourage clear decision-making, and often devise a calculus to arrive at a decision. For example, when faced with questions of Torah law, the Sages instruct us to choose the more stringent path; when faced with questions of Rabbinic law, they instruct us to take the more lenient position. To remain in a state of doubt when decisions need to be made is fraught with peril, for doubt will surely lead to inaction, equivocation, bad life choices, and a host of missed opportunities in life.
If one is still unsure about what decision to make, our Sages recommend speaking to someone older and wiser and getting his perspective on a situation. Judaism accepts the notion of a hierarchy of intellect and holiness. Once you identify the holy man of wisdom who represents the values in which you believe, you then ask him your query. Whatever the answer, you can feel confident that you are making the best decision possible since you have consulted the best and the brightest of men.
Forever Young is a stark reminder of the negative consequences of not being able to make a decision, and encourages us make the most of time we are allotted on this earth.