Sunday, January 17, 2010

Too Heavy to Fly ?

The art of living baggage free is the path that Ryan Bingham has chosen. Bingham, the lead character in the movie “Up in the Air” believes in traveling light. He spends most of his time in airports as he makes his way from one city to the next, carrying out his duties as a corporate down size specialist. He is the one that the big guys hire to give people the ax, to let them go. George Clooney is one of few actors that could pull this off, as his good looks and charm allow the viewer to forget for a good portion of the movie what a jerk this character is. It takes a very strange sort to fire people for a living

Many of the scenes in the movie use ordinary people instead of actors. They were asked to portray their feelings over their recent job loss by reenacting what they said to the person who fired them, or even better, by saying what they wished they would have said. The viewer witnesses a host of emotions from anger to despair, sadness and desperation. Bingham delivers this news over and over, never seeming to flinch, and then telling the person not to take it personally. For anyone who has ever been fired or who has had to fire someone else, there is much to relate to in these sequences and puts faces on the ranks of the unemployed.

Bingham meets his match in the corporate world with Natalie Keener,played by Anna Kendrick, a young go-getter who believes that the way to make the business of firing people even more profitable is to do it on-line rather than incur the travel and personnel expenses to do it in person. Miss Natalie has much to learn.

He meets his match in the love department with romantic interest Alex,played by Vera Farminga, a female version of himself who is turned on by collecting travel rewards and sexual conquests. Oh yes, Miss Alex has much to teach.

Bingham prides himself in the fact that his backpack is empty, a metaphor that he uses while doing stints as a motivational speaker, his sideline. The empty backpack is used as a visual technique to illustrate the loads that people put on themselves with the possessions and the relationships that they acquire. Bingham takes his “no baggage” philosophy to an extreme, as he lives in a sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment and seems to have no real personal relationships beyond a couple of flings here and there, and the occasional call from his sisters whom he rarely sees. He is much too cool to have time for things like family much less romantic love or commitment of any kind.

Well this movie got me to thinking about the baggage free concept and while very few would want to carry the concept to this length, there is something to be said for lightening the load a bit. It may be time to clean out the proverbial closets. Just think of the time that we spend working so that we can buy things and more things and then even more things. We just get enough things and we realize that these things are out of style or that the person next to us has even better things, so we must work more to earn more to have more things. Next we have kids and we have to get them all kinds of things and these things have to be as good as or better than the other kid’s things. Eventually we have to have a bigger house to store all of the things. Some acquire multiple houses full of things and then have to hire multiple people to keep track of and care for all of said things. We work and we acquire, and we work and we acquire, and on and on until we are too old to care about all of this stuff. Then we have to find somewhere for all of it to go. Sounds quite a bit like baggage doesn’t it!

How much is enough? At what point do we weigh ourselves down with possessions and commitments to the point where we can no longer fly?

The baggage free concept as it applies to relationships merits a bit of thought also. We all have those people in our lives that wear us out. These are the folks that cause us anguish, give us heartburn and make us feel bad about ourselves. You know who they are. These are the people that are impossible to please no matter what we do. These are the “all about me” people that do all of the talking and none of the listening. These are the people that you can never do enough for to gain any lasting appreciation.

Now human beings are not nearly as easy to weed out as possessions and presumably if they are in our lives it is for a reason. So what are we to do about these bad seeds? For most of us it is about retraining ourselves to ask for what we want, spending more time with people that build us up, and limiting the energy that we devote to those who weigh us down. Even more difficult is evaluating our own behavior to determine whether we might be the burden for someone else. Are we the ones weighing down the backpacks? Hmmm……

Well that’s a lot of heavy thinking about a movie. Forgive the pun. The sign of a good film is one that sticks with the viewer as they leave the theatre and beyond and sets the wheels of thought in motion. This film is worth the price of admission if for no other reason than this.

No comments: