Friday, February 26, 2010

Up in the Air

"My heart shudders, my stength is gone... my friends and my lovers stand aloof because of my affliction. My neighbors stand far away and leave me alone." Psalm 38:11-12

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a lonely man. He would never admit it, but he is very much alone in this world.

Bingham makes a career out of firing people, living out of a suitcase 322 days a year, flying from city to city being the bearer of bad news (he calls the remaining days spent at home a "miserable" experience). His goal in life is to achieve ten million airline miles. Nothing more, nothing less. His airport lifestyle is all the comfort he needs.

In a sense, he is the embodiment of the psalmist in the 38th psalm: "My heart shudders, my strength is gone... my friends and lovers stand aloof because of my affliction. My neighbors stand far away and leave me alone." (Ps. 38:11-12). Bingham's affliction is his busy-ness, his workaholic nature, and his lonely career firing people.

But when someone unexpectedly sweeps him off his feet, in the person of Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), Bingham is stunned to discover that there is more to life than airports and miles. The rest of Up in the Air has our protagonist navigating a new terrian, unsure where the next step might lead.

Bingham is a product of our times - the overly busy, overly stressed, and the overly stretched. When we find ourselves swirling in a pool of stress and work, we embody the psalmist as well: our affliction leaves us alone, even in the most crowded room. And like this character, we are unprepared to deal with the rest of the world when our minds are, well, up in the air.

Jesus challenges us to leave our anxieties and work at the door. "Can any of you, by worrying so much about your work, add a single day to your lifespan?" (Mt. 6:27) Not only does work numb us to the joys and wonders of the world, but it gets in the way of our relationships - with God and with one another. When our minds are up in the air, do we ever get a chance to land when it's necesary for us to pay attention to the rest of our lives?

I am writing this blog on a Friday afternoon, as a weekend is about to begin. The week has past, and with it I lay my worries, my anxieties, my frustrations, and my laundry list of tasks. My head has been up in the air for a few days now - and it's time to land once more. Let us pray that we all have the ability and the strength to make a successful landing.

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