Saturday, June 18, 2011

Born to die?

I recently watched a movie called, “Into the Wild” about a young man who after graduating from college decides to leave everything behind, including his family and even his identity to live out in the wild. His dream was to go to Alaska and just live among the wildlife away from people and reality.

His family doesn’t understand him or why he chose to cut all ties with them. Everyone with whom he comes across question his actions and motives. One old man whom he befriends tells him he's running. In the end, the protagonist dies alone in Alaska- the very place that he’d dreamed of going to.

As I watched this movie I had two different thoughts. The first one was that sometimes when a person sets out to do something that is out of the ordinary they are misunderstood and judged by those closest to them. Because their family and friends cannot understand their dream they despair over the choices of the individual. But sometimes people are called to do things that aren’t ordinary…

A soldier for example risks his life on a battlefield and may eventually lose his life for a cause that others may condemn or deem unfair. The wife he left behind may not appreciate being a widow, but does that change the fact that the soldier was meant to carry out a purpose that would eventually lead to his death? And then I think of jesus Christ who was literally born to die on a cross for the sins of mankind.

When he shared that his impending death was approaching, one of his disciples, Peter said to him, “Never Lord.” But in the end, while his mother wept by the cross he gave his last breath and is forever remembered as God and Savior to his faithful followers. And even those who don’t believe in his divinity still acknowledge him as a man of great wisdom.

Now back to the movie…my first thought was this kid couldn’t live until he went to Alaska. He literally felt no happiness in the life that surrounded him—"the real world," as some would call it. There’s a scene in the film when he is walking through a busy California street and observes a man in a tie laughing with a lady friend. The man’s face changes into his own and then back to his original face. The protagonist tries to imagine living a “normal” and acceptable life but it’s impossible for him. You could almost say that it's not in his DNA. He sets out again on his own into the wilderness.

Now on the flipside, he dies all by himself in Alaska. I thought about how sad it would be to take your last breath with no one around to hold your hand. And although I admire the fact that the protagonist wasn’t defeated in pursuing his dream to travel, and was not bound by time or man, I thought of how tragic it would be to achieve your dream and have no one to share it with. Isn't the purpose of life to have community, build relationships and help others? What's the point of living if you're doing it in isolation?

So I guess I'm trying to figure out what the balance is between pursuing your dreams and the fact that in pursuit of those dreams one could lose friends, family or even their life. Should one change their dream to satisfy the desire of another? Is that even possible? Is there a way to pursue a dream that is risky, and yet still be admired for your efforts and the very pursuit? Or are some people born to achieve great things and then simply die? And were some people placed on the earth simply to die?

I don’t know if there are any real answers to my questions. I just wanted to throw it out in the cosmos…or into the wild.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are you controlled by what you own?

My husband and I are fascinated with the A&E program called "Hoarders." This reality show takes you into the lives of people who hoard things to the point where their homes are literally unlivable and even pose a health risk. Some of the people in the stories have been threatened with eviction and others have seen their families fall apart because of the excessive hoarding. It's amazing to see how the people in these stories are actually owned by what they own.

In one particular episode a woman wept as she held a teddy bear from her childhood. Although I understand that memories and keepsakes can bring you back to the past and specific memories, I was struck by the fact that most of the hoarders on these shows are living in the past. I feel really bad for these people because I see how deceived and controlled they really are.

The reason my husband and I enjoy watching these shows is because in the last three years of our lives we've gotten rid of most of our furniture, things from the past and just about anything that reminded us of negative things. We first began this journey after attending a conference where a well-known speaker spoke of finding healing through cleaning out the trash in our lives.

I had never made the connection between emotional healing and cleaning my house. Cleaning was always a chore and an obligation. Yet I was struck when the speaker said that the act of throwing things that reminded us of bad memories or even just ridding our house of excessive trash brings healing to the mind and emotions.

I was convicted because I knew that I was a hoarder in some ways. I was the girl that kept the gum wrapper because I'd purchased the gum during a vacation I enjoyed. I kept the "just in case" things in case the day would come that I needed it. The day never came and the things would collect dust in a box somewhere.

After attending this conference my life partner and I decided to do some serious housecleaning. We went through boxes and bins of things that we'd accumulated for years and gave away things that had been stored away and forgotten. Though I dreaded the process at times and wanted to quit, I threw away bags of things that I knew deep down I really didn't need.

I now understand how keeping so much stuff can control your entire life and gives you a false sense of security. My husband and I continue to clean out the trash and our lives are so much simpler without all the unnecessary baggage.

At the end of the day all that we own are just things, and when we die we're leaving it all behind. I feel free knowing that I can now trash things that I know I don't need or won't use. I don't want a messy house or life. I feel a real sense of control rather than the false one that led me to hoarding. Most of that was based on guilt. I'm happy to say that I've been delivered from hoarding!