“If you could pack your whole like into a backpack, how much would it weigh?” This is supposedly the philosophy of Ryan Bingham (aka George Clooney) in Up in the Air. By avoiding any “excess baggage” Ryan makes his way through life with a minimalist wardrobe, a neatly packed suitcase and as few human connections as possible.
If you happen to loves airports, elite travelling (i.e. a clubcard holder), you’d probably love this film. For me though, it’s the kind of thing I’d only be willing to kill time with on a long-haul. That’s a step below “I’ll-see-it-when-it’s-out-on-DVD”; an aeroplane film. Pleasant, but a bit lacklustre.
I know the film’s message is corny, but I’ve thought about it before. For better or worse, baggage is part of life, which is why films spend so much time dissecting it. They tell stories about how people obtain baggage, about people who’ve lost it and more often than not, about people asking whether this baggage is actually important.
The survival horror genre, (if such a thing exists) is constantly throwing people into challenging situations to find out how they react. George A Romero pretty much made a career on this (as well as championing the undead). It’s not hard to predict what will happen to the guy who, when the apocalypse comes, values money over food or protection. If these films are anything to go by, the only way to survive is to reject society’s modern conventions asap and re-adopt our most primitive survival instincts.
For some strange reason, I managed to merge up in the air with dawn of the dead in my head. This got me thinking the most poignant of questions: if you woke up to a post apocalyptic world ruled by the undead, what would you pack in your rucksack?
When it comes to survival, it pays to be rational. Following the Mazlov pyramids of needs your first priority is water, followed by food, shelter, and clothing. If we’re still playing with this zombie scenario, you’d move up to the next tier pretty fast and get yourself a weapon, followed by the family the photo album which would come next. I hate to say it but I can’t fault the reasoning behind this; it accurately describes the rational decisions we should make when faced with this.
Recently I had to move out my flat for a few days. I followed this behaviour to a t, but strangely the first thing I took out of my bag to make room was a bottle of water. It wasn’t a big decision I could by some on the way. This got me thinking about three things:
1) If there’s sufficient food and water around us, we can start to bypass the lower stages of the diagram. So how much of this can we bypass and still achieve the “ultimate” aim: self actualization?
2) Where does money fit in to all this? If I’ve got enough funds to cheat my way through this, how does this skew the diagram? I can’t buy love, belonging, or self esteem, so in the long run how much of a difference does it make?
3) What does this say about all the baggage we have in life? Can we really be happy without, say employment or property?
I’m beginning to wonder if the comfort of these things and the (moderate) excess of some of them isn’t a necessity to personal fulfilment and development. There is no AntiSofa doctrine, so it’s not like I’m breaking any tenets; I’m just curious about the things we surround ourselves with and how these affect our behaviour.