Saturday, February 13, 2010

Up in the Air, or Not

I was drawn by the storyline of this movie with a somewhat opportunistic theme of letting go people by minimizing the pain of the aggrieved. In the present climate of rampant unemployment, it hits a rather raw nerve; but at the same time, it also invites a sense of empathy from those who are in the same boat, yours truly included. While the passage of time, and thankfully, being accepted back into the fold of the gainfully employed, did ease off some of the agony spawned by the traumatic experience, the looming sense of anxiety does not seem to go away anytime soon.

So Wify and I found ourselves in one of the smaller movie theaters at Muvico along Highway Preserve, with a pleasant surprise of sort: we qualified for the Senior discount, as we have always thought you have to hit 60. Not surprisingly, most of the patrons (I assessed the turnout to be less than half full as the movie has been running for some time now) are silver-haired, and by that I meant they are decidedly older than us. Let's take a sneak peek at some scenes from the movie. Don't worry, it's not enough to make you want to give it a miss; instead, it might just get you intrigued enough to give it a try actually.

Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is a consultant who makes his career out of firing people. He amasses frequent flyer miles, carries a neatly packed suitcase for carry-on, and methodologically moves toward his frequent mile target that he was evasive for most part of the movie.

He goes on the speaking circuit too, with a backbag placed on a table next to him, and delivers his usual opening line about what is in your backbag. He challenges the audience to start with the small stuff, small momentos, things on the shelf, and start putting them into the backbag one by one. Then move on to the bigger stuff, tables, bed, etc. And even bigger stuff, your car, your house. And now strap on the filled backbag. Do you fill the weight overwhelming, the strap cutting into your body? And he declares famously, that's what we do.

At the next speaking engagement, he changes tack a bit. Now imagine putting all your relationships, starting with the casual acquaintance, postman, cable guy, delivery guy, into the backbag. Next, your friends, and finally, the loved ones. And feel the weight again.

The next speaking engagement has him cajoling folks to put their memories into the proverbial back bag. And relive the overbearing burden.

Is there a message, sublime or otherwise, somewhere in there? Mr. Bingham is not forthright. But the recurring theme resonates in me: it's about letting go. After one has lived in the moment. Being weighed down is not the best way, obviously not the fun way for sure, to go through life. That does not mean we merely go through the motion without a purpose in life. Purpose is what drives us, what makes us stumble is our groping around to find the purpose.

As one of the characters in the movie puts it, after he was let go: The next morning when I wake up, and I see my wife sleeping next to me, I find my sense of purpose.