Life-Changing Lessons From “The Fault In Our Stars”

Spoiler alert: If you’re planning on seeing TFIOS (tonight!) and haven’t yet read the book, you might want to save this post for after you’ve seen the movie. Just a heads up, homies. 

Last year one of my best friends told me I absolutely had to read The Fault In Our Stars, which, if you have read the book you will understand, was a recommendation that nearly ended our friendship. Okay, that may be a slight over dramatization, but I was certainly text yelling at her in between chapters for insisting I read a story that was breaking my heart eight ways to Sunday. However, once my eyes were dry and the ache in my chest subsided, I realized what everyone else in the world has as of late: the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters is not one of sadness, but of epic love and the grandness of life. It is pure magic.

Not only do I agree with the rave movie reviews, informing us that this is quite possibly the greatest love story of the decade, I also believe these two infamous characters are teaching the world a few beautiful life lessons. If you have yet to read The Fault In Our Stars, I beg you to stop reading my far inferior words and immediately immerse yourself in John Green’s best book yet; his words are superior to mine in every way. Plus, there are likely some spoilers ahead and I would never do that to you! If you are already aware of the magic within the pages, keep reading so that in honor of the book and the movie premiere, we can talk about how Augustus and Hazel are simply life changing.

The world is not a wish granting factory.

Hazel hadn’t wanted Augustus to see her in the intensive care unit. In fact, the circumstances surrounding her entire relationship with Augustus were not what she wanted at all. Hazel didn’t have the ability choose a few healthy days over all the sick ones she had left; Peter Van Houten did not turn out to be the sane author Hazel and Gus had hoped for; and in the most unfair move the literary universe has ever witnessed, Augustus lit up like a Christmas Tree when he went in for his PET scan. Why? Because you don’t always get what you want. “The world is not a wish granting factory.” Life is so often unfair at best, but Hazel and Gus teach us to try and turn the unjust ways of the universe into a punch line; to turn the negative into a beautiful inside joke that can be cast aside, relieving us of our incessant need to rationalize the irrational or make sense of things that will never be fair. Acceptance of the world’s inconsistency on the fairness front grants us the ability to focus on the good we have been given.

Some infinities are bigger than others.

In possibly the greatest pre-emptive eulogy ever delivered, Hazel Grace poignantly explains the mathematics behind infinities, ultimately teaching us that while some are bigger than others, it is the substance of your personal infinity that makes your days worth living.

I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

We’ve all been taught the various concepts of quality or quantity but, never before has the notion been so deeply and tangibly explained. Hazel Grace Lancaster and her love for Augustus Waters prove to us, without a doubt in our soul, that the size of our infinity is no matter, for it is not our number of days that gives us a forever. Some infinities are bigger than others, but it is what you fill your personal infinity with that makes it count.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world.

In Gus’s last effort to show his adoration for Hazel, he writes the not-so-great Peter Van Houten, asking the author to help him eulogize the love of his life. As it would turn out, Gus didn’t need the help. The last words he wrote about Hazel are both the epitome of great love and wise teachings.

I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

As a whole, we spend a great deal of time trying to avoid pain but, if we read carefully, The Fault In Our Stars also teaches us that “pain demands to be felt” and “the universe likes to be noticed.” No matter how we try, Gus is right- we don’t get to choose if we get hurt; it is a near certainty that we will experience pain. Each of us should hope that in the end we can say, not that we weren’t hurt, but that we chose wisely as to who hurt us. If we are careful when we pick our poison, we will be lucky enough to like our choices, making it all worth while.

We should not be in the business of denying ourselves simple pleasures.

Again, since Augustus Waters is perfectly un-perfect, he tells Hazel he loves her by saying, “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.” Essentially, Gus whole-heartedly believed in the law of YOLO, his version is just incredibly poignant and much more impactful. Like Gus, we should not deny ourself life’s simple pleasures because they almost always bring the greatest joys.

And last, but certainly not least…

It’s a good life, Hazel Grace.

It certainly is, Augustus. It certainly is.

Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters are two characters that teach us the most amazing things about life. Through their love story we learn that we must recognize the simple pleasures and indulge in them; that we must accept the unfair nature of the universe yet, not let it strip us of our hope for more; that we must make the best of our days so that the number we get becomes insignificant compared to what is within our given set; and that we must not strive to avoid heartbreak, but rather try to make choices that are worth the inevitable breaking. Most importantly, we learn that it is a good life if we allow it to be, if we take the time to see it that way.

I am not going to lie to you, all the reading and the re-reading and the writing and the movie previews and the much anticipated trip to the theater are emotionally exhausting! Yet somehow I promise, and I leave you with a little more Augustus Waters greatness here, it was a privilege to have my heart broken by this book.

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