Why Aren’t We All Jumping Off Bridges?

Why aren’t we all jumping off bridges?

Sometimes I wonder about that.

This week-end, I watched two movies. One is a new release and one was a hit sixteen years ago. Seeing them on the same week-end made me think about how our culture is hurtling forward to strange and uncertain places.

Up in the Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham. Bingham is smart – really smart, handsome, well-traveled and savvy. He knows how to travel light – no bags to check, no entanglements to keep him grounded, no clutter. He lives life on the move – like a shark. Ryan is a fan of loyalty (customer loyalty, that is) and operates in a world where loyalty is rewarded with mileage, points, and privilege.

Forrest Gump tells the story of –well – Forrest Gump. Forrest is not smart. His IQ falls well-below normal. He is well-traveled but he’s not terribly handsome and he’s the opposite of savvy. Like Bingham, Forrest travels light. He lives in the moment and is fully present wherever he is. Material possessions mean little to him, neither does fortune nor fame.

Loyalty is important to Forrest, too – but Forrest values loyalty to people –family and friends. Unlike Bingham, Forrest occupies a world where loyalty (to people, not to brands or corporations) usually is rewarded with hardship, sacrifice and heartache for him. But the loyalty he offers others is a constant lifesaver of hope thrown out to them as they drown in the seas of their own troubled lives. His loyalty leads to their redemption when they grab hold of it.

For Ryan Bingham, the world is a constantly changing board of arrivals and departures interrupted by brief, messy encounters. Others may find different messages from this movie but for me the takeaway seemed to be that it is best to limit those encounters. Life is best lived up in the air and on the move because life on the ground relating to other humans is unpredictable, painful, messy and cumbersome.

The takeaway message from Forrest Gump is also that life on the ground is unpredictable and messy – like “a box of chocolates” – but in the end it seems we do affect the lives of those we love and the price of love is worth it after all.

In the world of Up in the Air, technology is the future with some hint of a promise that one day, we may even keep our hearts in our Blackberries – perhaps there will even be an app for companionship or intimacy. In the world of Forrest Gump, hearts are made to be worn on sleeves and T-shirts and hung around our necks like medals earned in battle.

The world of Up in the Air is sleek, slick, savvy and cool – everything we need fits in a carry-on and no one has to be so old-fashioned as to think the boy would end up with the girl because it’s not a world where anyone believes in happily ever after.

The world of Forrest Gump is clumsy, backwoods, awkward, halting and hick – no one gets everything they need and when the boy does end up with the girl, we know there’s no “ever after” but it doesn’t matter – because the boy ends up with the girl and love was the point, after all, not happily ever after.

The writer of the book of Hebrews writes, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25. It makes me think God knew this day would come when we would be tempted to stop meeting together and would need to be reminded to stick it out together – to spur one another on toward love.

I think these movies illustrate a shift in our culture, in our thinking and way of looking at the world that is subtle but frighteningly real. As we move from bottles to bedpans, is the point of life to travel easily across the surface denying or removing all human entanglements that threaten to slow us down or halt our forward progress or give us pause to look beneath the surface? Or are we sent on this journey exactly for those moments when our wheels touch down and we come in for a hard landing to face ourselves at rest and be confronted with the ordinary baggage and burdens of the people we love?

There is a telling detail – a minor sub-plot – in both these movies that I believe reveals the truth of the application of their philosophies. In each movie, there is a moment when someone is tempted to jump from the heights and end it all. In one movie, the person backs off the ledge, in the other, she jumps. I’ll let you figure out which.

Life is a tangle and the news tickers that run across our screens all day are enough to send us all to the bridges. Why don’t more of us jump? Because somewhere inside we know that we touch the lives of others and they touch our lives and even though that is messy and unpredictable and sometimes painful, those relationships back us off the ledges we all occasionally face.

Ryan Bingham made his life up in the air. Forrest Gump was as grounded as a person can get. They were both men of the world, both men on the move but one traveled life alone and one traveled life carrying everyone he ever met in his heart. How will you move through life? Who will you keep from jumping off the bridge and who will keep you from the edge?

Let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. It approaches, loved ones, stand firm and back away from the edge.


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9 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    AMEN!!

    Blessings, andrea

  2. Living Water says:

    I like the way you compare the two and reason out which we have to choose.

    I agree with you about the cultural shift. Getting social these days are often referred to mean getting connected online rather than the meeting together. I must admit technology has its good in closing the gap of communicating with people around the globe, but it also means true relationships are thinning and now getting less personal.

    All of us must certainly consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds and not give up meeting together, to encourage one another— all the more as we see the Day approaching.

    Thank you for sharing this. God bless you.

  3. Mike W. says:

    Excellent analysis, Lori.

    Have only read reviews about ‘Up In The Air’ and have send ‘Forrest Gump’ a few times.

    ‘Wasn’t sure about going to see ‘Air’, but now I think I’ll try to.

    🙂

  4. sallyhanan says:

    Yes, life is totaly devoid of richness in the real sense of the word if we don’t have any investment in friends or family.

  5. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    Another excellent post! And, for me, at least the third time that I’ve heard “live in the moment” from God in the past few days! Me thinks He now has my attention. Though I thought I was living in the moment, maybe I need to re-examine things!

    Blessings,
    Cheri

  6. Thank you, Andrea!

    Ed, I agree that technology often gives us a sense of having relationships with others but it’s always at our control, in our timing, etc. We can log off when things get too intense or switch chat rooms if the conversation wanders. I love connecting with people from across the world but we still need to work to make the relationships deeper.

  7. Go for it, Mike. I’d love to hear what you think!

  8. Welcome, Sally. I like what you said “devoid of richness!” Very cool.

  9. Cheri, Sounds like a message that needs to be heeded! 🙂