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MOVIE LESSONS

Ah, you’re catching on! I find life lessons in everything!

Last night I watched the movie INTO THE WILD despite reservations. I’d read the book about Chris McCandless, a young man who disappears immediately after graduating from college and is later found dead of starvation in the wilds of Alaska.

It’s a good story, and well-written. But I always felt the book underplayed the role of mental illness in the young man’s decisions. He deliberately loses himself in the wilderness, enjoying its beauty and solitude, eschewing “modern” concepts like money, career, home. He strives to forsake all permanent human relationships–until he finally starves to death.

Instead, the book stresses his principled convictions and moral integrity, making a hero of him.

The book did the same, taking a highly sympathetic tone with the character. But it also drew me even further into the life of this conflicted young man. In the end, I was glad I watched it.

The movie is beautifully photographed. And, like the book, it also gives Chris the benefit of the doubt about the rationale behind his decisions.

But it also depicts his endearing personality and how deeply felt his beliefs are. It shows, in his travels, how easily the people he encountered came to care deeply for him. It is poignant in showing the suffering and pain his family went through, not knowing what had happened to him for two years until his body is found.

The movie (based on his journals and interviews with the people who came to know him along the way) concludes a beautiful sentiment.

His experiences (in the movie, anyway) eventually teach him that “Happiness real only when shared” (sic). Too late for him to act on it–he dies before he can escape the wilderness and act on his revelation. But it got me thinking about the implications for other human endeavors, including art and craft.

Some people still feel uncomfortable putting their artwork out into the world. They fear criticism or rejection, or simply refuse to have it judged. They may feel creating for money sullies the process. Or they may feel it won’t sell anyway, so what’s the use of trying? They hold it close, and keep it private and unknown.

When we are locked in this mindset, we forget the ultimate reason d’etre of art…

With art, we forge new possibilities; new connections with, and new ways of looking at, the world. Our work can enrich, inspire, provoke, or tantalize other people with these connections.

We can create the work we love, or just focus on what earns us a living. We can even chose to create it in private, for our own enjoyment, and never go further than that.

But either way, nothing happens, nothing changes–until we put it out into the world.

Happiness–and art–only real when shared.

Find ways to share your work. You can exhibit, and choose not to sell it. You can sell it for any purpose you want. You can teach it or write about it, if you cannot bring yourself to put it out in the open.

But find some way for the world to benefit from your creativity.

If that happens posthumously, well, YOU will miss out on all the fun!