Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Imagine Nothing

Imagine you had nothing.

That thought will scare the tar out of more than a few of you.

I was watching Up in the Air a while ago and something stuck with me from the film. In the movie, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) talks about having a backpack and stuffing everything you own into it. Toys, cutlery, DVDs, TV, clothing, lawnmower, four wheeler, boat, cars, house (apartment, condo)... everything you own or rent. 

Now try to pick it up.

According to Bingham, the more stuff we have, the more we have to weigh us down and keep us from moving (i.e. living). The idea being, the more we have, the more time we spend caring for those things and the less time we spend actually having a life.

He then goes on to say we have a second backpack where we put all of our relationships; parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, best friends, coworkers, acquaintances, children and our significant other. Try lifting that backpack. “Make no mistake”, he says, “the relationships in your life are the heaviest things you will carry.”

Is he right?

While he may be spot on about possessions, I disagree, with a corollary, regarding relationships. Any relationship built on trust, honesty, openness and love is going to be uplifting. It’s when a relationship is abusive (physical, emotional, verbal), continuously one sided or relentlessly clingy that it weighs heavy. I have no use for the latter.

People who build you up are more like balloons in your backpack... they’re going to help you levitate. Maybe that’s the magician’s secret.

It’s easier to build the tallest building than it is to spend your life tearing all the others down.

I’m a pretty simple fellow when it comes to owning things. I don’t need a lot of possessions surrounding me to make me feel better. It’s nice to have the convenience of having things at my finger-tips and is it really necessary? In fact, the less the better. Ultimately I would like to have few possessions to weigh me down allowing me to travel and move on a whim. I need a home base, some things to provide creature comforts and necessities for living and that’s about it. The rest, which I may use once or twice a year, I can borrow, push come to shove.

As for relationships, I only surround myself with those people who lift me and whom I lift. Together we can fly. (Yes, I understand this axiom is seemingly over-used yet it still holds true.)

I think the character in Up in the Air (Ryan Bingham), and ultimately the screen writer (obviously), have it partly right and partly wrong. The more possessions we have, the more we are weighed down (glued to a spot). However, the people we choose to surround ourselves with determine whether the backpack we carry lifts us up or weighs us down. We all have a backpack and we all choose what we stuff inside.

The image of having nothing is a bit frightening at first and I think simplifying is the ultimate goal. At least, it is for me. How much more would we all have if we chose to possess less and share?

What is more frightening to me is not having people around me who hand me balloons.