Tonight, Jimmy and I watched “Up in the Air.” I found the plot of the movie to be fairly predictable, but who can resist a vulnerable George Clooney? In the movie, Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham, a lifelong bachelor addicted to living out of suitcases and in airplanes while maintaining a job through which he fires people from their jobs, gives multiple “motivational” speeches using the analogy of baggage. “How much does your life weigh?” he asks. “Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… Now I want you to fill it with people… feel the weight of that bag.”
When I attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, the now-deceased but dear to my heart Pastor Roosevelt Hunter preached a sermon similar to this motivational speech. He used a line of scripture about Saul, who was hidden among the baggage when the people came to crown him as king. I’ve heard these analogies before, and I can relate to them, but George Clooney’s character made it all the more real for me. Reason? Ryan Bingham was isolated. He believed he was surrounded by people on a daily basis, and that made him normal, but he was void of any real connection with another human being. Isolated.
When I was young, I was impressionable. Most children are. I surrounded myself with people, then found them to be the wrong people. I believed things, then found out that they weren’t true. Santa Clause doesn’t exist. Neither does the Easter Bunny. Adults lie. Other children lie. There are bad people in the world. I might be one of them.
Realizations cause pain. It’s almost like I can look back into my childhood, into my teen years, into my college years, and see the strips of innocence and naivety peeled right off of me. Now, I’m at the point where I don’t want to realize anything anymore. I don’t want to fill my backpack or take it with me anywhere. I want it emptied, and in my closet–isolated. Matter of fact, I don’t really want a backpack at all.
I should have been much more selective with my knowledge, with my circle of friends, with the pieces of my heart. But how do you know to do that until you’ve done it the other way? The wrong way? You don’t. But now I know what I should have done, what I want to do. Because in the end, when Ryan Bingham changes “for the better”–in most people’s eyes–and decides to leave his isolated life of luxury, decides to care for his family, decides to take a leap of faith for the woman he might love, what happens? He gets burned. Don’t we all?