In the 2009 film ‘Up In The Air’, Ryan Bingham is one of American Airlines most prized customers. Spending half of his life flying the skies, Ryan lives a light-weight, un-attached life, jettisoning contemporary, cultural values in a quest for personal freedom.
Casting off the cares of the world, Ryan strikes a sharp pose, especially so when contrasted with his young colleague, Natalie. Natalie’s naivety and idealism clash with the walking philosophy that is Ryan.
At one point in the story, struggling to come to grips with Ryan’s seeming rejection of all she looks forward to in life – love, family, settling down – Natalie has to ask him about his flying obsession, wrapped up in his collection of air miles.
“Why reject the world for a number,” is the question she is driving at. Unimpressed with Ryan’s argument for his quest to become someone special in the airline world, Natalie chides Ryan on his cheap, almost-boyish obsession, to which Ryan replies, “There’s nothing cheap about loyalty.”
And of course, Ryan is absolutely right. His choice to live a life unencumbered with the weights or pressures of relationships, possessions, and memories has cost him much. Family ties and friends have been sacrificed on the altar of his personal quest.
Up In The Air explores the core of modern western values, asking the viewer to come up with an answer to the question, “What is the point?” The questions of meaning is one of the most important questions a person can ask.
Loyalty to an idea, a view of life, is expensive. Our one life on this earth will be spent, but we can only spend it once and then it is no more. Loyalty to one idea excludes all other ideas and so our choices cost us; our choices cost us everything we choose to reject.
So how do we choose well? How do we invest our sum capital – our lives – meaningfully? The great French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrestled with this very idea. And his answer? Jesus Christ.
Pascal wrestled with the deep questions. His wasn’t a blind leap to faith in Jesus but the honest move to belief after deep personal examination. Faith wasn’t a crutch or a prehistoric hang up for him but rather a rational, emotional, logical and necessary decision.
Don’t wait for the big questions to come to you in a dark hour. Ask them now. Examine your life and explore your foundations. Life is too expensive to spend it cheaply.