What is ‘trainspotting’ actually? It is a movie based on the novel by the same title. It is a serious hobby of some, to watch trains, to note their distinctive characteristics in appearance and even sound. It is perhaps used as a placeholder to stand for what seems purposeful, yet is essentially pointless? ‘Trainspotting’ tells the tale of wilful yet careless misadventure, on how what seems carefree can come with grave consequences, such that life is better lived with mindfulness than wasted with indulgence.
In 1996’s ‘Trainspotting’, it opens immediately with this monologue by Renton on the run — ‘Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f_cking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of f_cking fabrics.
Choose DIY and wondering who the f_ck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f_cking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f_cked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?’
It was an angsty and sarcastic rant especially ‘relevant’ then, on the perceived stupidity of following the crowd, to choose what seems to be ‘essential’ for a ‘good’ life. The list of choices is however mixed with reasonable responsibilities such as work, some useful machines, even good health and friends. But it does include the arbitrary, such as the ‘need’ to get insured and buy a house. Then it harps on non-essentials, such as being hardly affordably fashionable, doing the pointless despite not knowing what should be done, till death creeps up, as if with a sense of good riddance of oneself for the next generation. But make no mistake, that the rant is conclusively escapist in nature, and reckless like Renton and company, who chose a life of crime for mind-numbing drugs, that are so addictive that it makes it harder for them to choose an alternative life.
Here is how the monologue can be rewritten — ‘Choose a more spiritual life. Choose a more meaningful job. Choose a less worldly career. Choose to nurture the family you already have, whether you wish to extend it or not. Choose a television that is big enough, if needed… Choose good health, low cholesterol, low blood pressure and sensible insurance if affordable. Choose mortgage payments only if needed. Choose your spiritual and worldly friends. Choose basic decent apparel. Choose not to keep up with fast fashion that is too fast anyway. Choose the purpose of your life that outlives yourself. Choose ingesting what really matters physically and mentally. Choose to depart well after living well, to not be an embarrassment to those left behind. Choose your future life by choosing your life now.’