The Case for Irrelevancy and the Existential Crisis

Posted on March 10, 2020


“No, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.” T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

“A man needs a home and a child and a wife to always be there, always.”  Don Henley, Oh Lilah

“In a couple of years they have built a home sweet home.  With a couple of kids running in the yard of Desmond and Molly Jones.”  Lennon/McCartney, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”  Successories poster


Spoiler Alert: I am going to talk about the movie “Yesterday” in this post.  To make my point, I will reveal plot points and the outcome.  If you plan to and have not yet watched the film and don’t want to know too much, turn back now.

Very well, I warned you.


First, let me define what I mean by being irrelevant.  You might recall the TV show, Person of Interest, that ran from 2011-2016.  The basic premise of the show (particularly in the first 2 seasons) was that there was a government system that continuously surveyed the every move of all citizens.  The system was capable of predicting acts of violence.  If said acts were going to be between ordinary people in whom the government had no interest, they were considered irrelevant and the government did nothing about them.  Our heroes sought to intervene.

For our purposes, we are going to use the Person of Interest definition of being irrelevant.  Being irrelevant means neither your government nor the world at large has that much interest in what is happening in your life.


Let’s talk about Yesterday.  Yesterday is the story of a struggling British singer songwriter, Jack Malik.  During a 12 second worldwide power outage, Jack is hit by a bus.  Jack wakes up in the hospital and discovers that he is ostensibly the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles.  Jack, who has heretofore struggled in obscurity, experiences a meteoric rise to fame by passing off the Beatles songs as his own.

Late in the film, Jack has the opportunity to visit 78 year old John Lennon.  John is quite contented with his life.  He had a happy life, a successful marriage (I assume Cynthia and not Yoko), and worked for causes he believed in.

As with all good rom-coms, in the end Jack chooses love over fame.  Jack publicly announces that the songs are not his, leaves professional music in favor of marriage, family, and being a teacher.  Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.


Tell you about myself, if you’re in the mood to listen.[1]  By the time I was hitting kindergarten, I was pretending to be the Beatles, making guitars out of blocks, nails, and rubber bands.  I have since played in a lot of bands.  I get the appeal.  I watched James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke tour of Liverpool with Paul McCartney with some envy.

Here’s the thing.   Most of us will never be household names.  One hundred years from now, there will be no one around who remembers us.  No books about our lives.  No films made about us.  I would submit that this is a very good thing for those of us in that situation.  That’s how life is.

On the whole, fame and fortune don’t seem to bring the fulfillment to human beings that we seem to think it will.  Rather, they mostly bring a whole new set of problems.  We pursue fame because we think our lives will be better for it.  Most of the anecdotal evidence would suggest that this is not the case.  With levels of fame and fortunes there also comes a level of scrutiny of your life under which few of us could hold up.

You can consider your source on this one.  I am, after all, a therapist and a Christian.  Human beings are made for relationship and intimacy.  What makes a satisfying life is healthy long-lasting relationships, meaningful work, and having a positive impact within your sphere of influence.  There is a ripple effect that goes out from each of is for good or for ill.  Any individual can have tremendous, long-lasting impact in the world without becoming famous.

From a theological standpoint, you are already accepted; you are already relevant.  Your value is imputed, not earned.  If your motivator is to be known and relevant in a lasting way, that problem has already been solved.  You already are.

Existential crisis solved.

[1] With a nod to Neil Finn.  Okay.  That’s too obscure a reference for anyone to get.  It was Can’t Carry On by Crowded House.