Drew Cordell, author of Honest Christianity: Why People Choose to Believe, reflects on the sad passing of Friends actor Matthew Perry

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On Saturday 28th October, we lost one of the great cultural icons of Generations X and Y, Matthew Perry. He was a part of the famous Friends cast that took TV by storm from the mid-90s to the early 00s. Sadly, he is the first from the group to pass away, having drowned at his Los Angeles home in unsuspicious circumstances.

Perry was refreshingly honest in his 2022 memoir in declaring that he craved fame more than anything else on this planet, saying: “I needed it. It was the only thing that would fix me.”

Only those closest to Perry will know whether this pursuit of fame ultimately contributed to his premature departure. However, his death, like many other celebrities, fails to surprise the everyday punter who finds such stories regularly appearing in their twitter feeds. Celebrities seemingly having it all, finding themselves in an all-too-frequent spiral of depression, addiction and physical decline.

While A-list celebrities may seem to inhabit an entirely different world, in reality, we are not all that different. Don’t most of us convince ourselves that we would be happier if only we had “X”?

For a long time, it appeared that happiness was the ultimate goal in life. Accumulate wealth, have a family, friends and a touch of fame – this seemed to be the recipe for a good existence. However, Jordan Peterson’s rising popularity suggests that people are re-evaluating whether happiness is the ultimate pursuit. Peterson frequently discusses the concept of “meaning” as the true desire we all share. Regardless of how one defines meaning, it intuitively feels like Peterson is onto something. Meaning can be found in both times of scarcity and abundance, and viewing life’s lows as necessary and meaningful is helpful.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount evokes a similar sentiment – life isn’t always about achieving what we typically define as “winning”. In a modern Western context, this idea can be mind-boggling. It’s not that Jesus wants us to embark on some self-destructive religious journey, which would be too extreme. Instead, he challenges us to live in a way that isn’t centred solely on the self. Jesus is not primarily concerned with our happiness; he is most interested in us finding meaning in him.

I know to the non-religious, a phraseology of “finding meaning” can sound quite mystical and hippyish. This is not the vibe I’m trying to generate here. CS Lewis said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The person of Jesus invades and pervades every corner of our lives (if we allow it), giving ordinary things meaning that perhaps would seem inconsequential and otherwise random.

The theme song from Friends encourages us to be there for one another, a noble sentiment indeed. However, whether that is the best and only remedy in the darkest of times is a noble exploration too. In this endeavour, I think Jesus is worthy of investigation.

Drew Cordell is a business consultant who has worked alongside some of the world’s most successful businesses and their leaders in an extensive corporate career in both London and Australia. His soon-to-be-released book Honest Christianity: Why People Choose to Believe will be available on Amazon and in all good bookstores.