Thursday, March 7, 2013

What’s In Your Backpack?

I recently watched a movie from 2009 titled "Up in the Air", some of you may be familiar with it. It stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a solitary guy who lives very simply. He is a motivational speaker, and his keynote speech is the subject of this blog post.

It is titled "What's In Your Backpack?" and the theme centers around how much our possessions, obligations, and expectations can really slow us down. He asks several questions that I think deserve pondering. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

"How much does your life weigh?

Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel them?

Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things, the things on shelves and in drawers, the knickknacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up.

Then you start adding the larger stuff: clothes; tabletop appliances; lamps; linens; your TV.

The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now and you go bigger: your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two-bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it?

This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living.

Now, I’m going to set that backpack on fire. What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember. Drink some ginko and let the photos burn.

In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it?

Now, this is going to be a little difficult. So stay with me.

You have a new backpack. Only this time, I want you to fill it with people.

Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office. Then you move in the people that you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your parents. And finally, your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack.

Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to light it on fire.

Feel the weight of the bag. Your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders? All those negotiations and arguments and secrets and compromises and expectations?

You don’t need to carry all that weight. Why don’t you set that bag down?

Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically for a lifetime. Star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not those animals.

The slower we move, the faster we die. We are not swans. We’re sharks."


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your article. Three times in my life I have reduced the physical "stuff" in my life to what would fit in my car. The last time I jettisoned the car. I now live from the seat of my bicycle and what can fit in the panniers (plus a few items that fit into a microwave box). In most ways I am very happy with my current situation. I have zero debt, a good amount of silver, plenty of cash to weather a good storm, very good health ( I am 54 and have been working out and doing yoga daily since I was 40). Recently I have let some friendships move to the back burner and I am single. The result of pulling the plug on the corporate world has been good and bad. I have found myself out of touch with my previous world and not in touch with the world I would like to be in. I am not friends with anyone I would call a minimalist or even close.In the past I have moved about the country making friends as I go but most of them from work or some other institution. I was hoping that I could avoid going back in the corporate world. My current situation requires only a small income to live a healthy lifestyle. I am caught in limbo and could use some help moving forward. I am planning a two year bicycle trip to South America starting in October and it looks like it will be solo. This is neither good nor bad because when traveling there is always good people doing the same thing but I really need to build some relationships with like minded people. Let me know if you have any ideas.