Last week, I read a report in the Times about the current conditions on Mt. Everest, where climbers have taken to shoving one another out of the way in order to take selfies at the peak, creating a disastrous human pileup. It struck me as a cogent metaphor for how we live today: constantly teetering on the precipice to grasp at the latest popular thing. The story, like many stories these days, provoked anxiety, dread, and a kind of awe at the foolishness of fellow human beings. Luckily, the Internet has recently provided us with an unlikely antidote to everything wrong with the news cycle: the actor Keanu Reeves.
Take, for instance, a moment, a few weeks ago, when Reeves appeared on “The Late Show” to promote “John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum,” the latest installment in his action-movie franchise. Near the end of the interview, Stephen Colbert asked the actor what he thought happens after we die. Reeves was wearing a dark suit and tie, in the vein of a sensitive mafioso who is considering leaving it all behind to enter the priesthood. He paused for a moment, then answered, with some care, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” It was a response so wise, so genuinely thoughtful, that it seemed like a rebuke to the usual canned blather of late-night television. The clip was retweeted more than a hundred thousand times, but, when I watched it, I felt like I was standing alone in a rock garden, having a koan whispered into my ear.