Reflecting on What Matters Most
With 2016 about to sink into the rear-view mirror, it’s worth reflecting on what gives life meaning. I found myself thinking about that more this year, especially after a repeat viewing of Cast Away, the popular movie starring Tom Hanks.
We had watched the film more than a decade ago after our daughter loaned us a copy of her DVD, but much of it had receded into a dim memory. The reason we picked it up again was a recommendation in one of popular author/speaker/pastor Chuck Swindoll’s books that my wife had read.
Swindoll suggested watching it to appreciate the value of solitude. But during our repeat viewing, I found myself pondering many other aspects.
They started with the sheer enormity of the challenges Hanks faced after the Fed Ex plane he is on crashes, killing everyone else on board and leaving him adrift in the South Pacific.
I imagined trying to survive the obstacles of foraging for food, whether trying to stab crabs with a pole or grabbing fish with my bare hands. But for me, a more formidable foe would be the sheer boredom of finding myself all alone, with no one to talk to and no idea of what in the world is going on beyond this isolated island.
Anyone who’s seen the movie knows how that drives Hanks a bit batty, as he takes to calling a volleyball “Wilson” and treating it like his real-life companion. I could see myself cracking up under such circumstances and hoping for death as a preferable alternative.
However, the bottom line for me came near the end of the story, when Hanks is rescued and returns to discover that his fiancé—thinking he was dead—had married and given birth to a child.
Who could blame her? She had to move on with her life. Yet Hanks is left with an emptiness as broad as the ocean expanse that had separated him from civilization.
The most poignant scene comes at the “welcome back” office party, after Hanks has learned that the woman he loves is now beyond reach.
As the party starts to wind down, the main character looks around at the buffet tables still teeming with food and the ever-busy executives getting ready to scurry off to their next appointment.
The look on his face speaks volumes. This is how he used to live, wedded to the 24/7 lifestyle that returns all kinds of status and material rewards, but not what matters most. The woman he planned to marry is wed to someone else. He recognizes that all the riches of the corporate lifestyle that used to occupy his every waking minute are empty and meaningless.
Remembering What Matters
This was a good reminder to me to avoid getting swept away by the work that lately has kept me in a constant state of activity. A special project that wraps up this week, along with three different book editing projects that are almost over, have made the past two months a blur.
The additional work has been most welcome, especially since the first two months of this year were so bad we had to resort to taking an IRA withdrawal to pay bills. Yet, as our household savings have increased and the wolf is no longer at the door, I have discovered that life still has plenty of challenges and disappointments.
As I go, I must remember to rank my faith and loved ones ahead of work. They will always be more important than the size of our bank account.