The week began with the markets collapsing. By midweek, the coronavirus came in full force to the United States, and the markets continued their freefall. And by the end of the week, every news organization in the country, who wanted to make sure we fully appreciated their warning of our impending Armageddon, increased their headline font size four-fold. My family, my livelihood and the uncertainty of the moment were all on my mind.
So, when last Friday came around I was in need of some serious distraction, or maybe relief. At the very least, comfort.
In “The Call of the Wild” I found all three.
On Friday afternoon I picked up my four children from school and did something we never do on a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon in Wyoming: we went to the movies. Specifically, we went to see “The Call of the Wild.”
Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Stories of men and women who, in search of gold, went to the North Country wilderness a century ago has always left me in awe. London wrote his book 100 years ago, when snowmobiles and GPS tracking devices could only be described as science fiction. Today we have both, and much more. Today, I am still inspired.
The combination of Harrison Ford, a CGI dog named Buck, a movie rating of PG, my wife and 4 kids were the perfect antidote for the past week.
At first, I was distracted a bit by the computer generated Buck (after all, I was raised with Beethoven, Milo and Otis and those real acting pups from Homeward Bound), but I settled in, as I took in the beautiful vistas, the simple but poignant storyline and some important messages of the movie.
The first message that I found myself needing this past week had to deal with the basic concept of mail and communication. Today, our we, and our kids included, communicate with email, texts, instant messaging and who knows what else. The only thing we are certain of–it is instantaneous. In “The Call of the Wild” era, the author of a letter had to take special care in writing his words as there was no blaming an error in thought on “auto correct”. Once written, it could be months before the letter survived the transport over a frigid landscape not the chilly cyberspace. Then, it might be months before he received a reply.
I contemplated this world where the conveyance of news and communication might take months. I found myself longing for it, and so I made the point to talk to my kids about this. After the movie, we talked of focusing on the importance of taking time to carefully consider our words. For the rest of the weekend, we decided to unplug from all our devices and take the time to communicate—without distraction– thoughtfully with each other.
The next message I needed was about the fresh air that seems to almost be a character in the story. In “The Call of the Wild” Buck was surrounded by the freshest of air. Today we worry about the cough behind us, the polluting car in front of us and the stale air in the plane above us. We decided that while these problems might exist today, it should not keep us from searching, finding and enjoying the freshest air possible. Without the distraction of “devices” and with the lure of fresh air, my family took to the wilds and enjoyed all the fresh air we could find.
Then, the message I needed most in the movie hit as the story was wrapping up: it was the importance of letting go. I will not be the spoiler here, but it suffices to say that an important underlying message of the story is taking the time to “let go”. Some things I have control over, and some things I do not. Importantly, worrying about those things outside of my control was a wonderful reminder.
My kids were jumping with excitement from what they had just seen and enthusiastic for what would come next. As a family, we decided to tie all that we had just seen and create our own “Call of the Wild” for the weekend. To tune the world out, tune in to each other, and worry less about those things outside of our control.
The world might not have changed much during our encounter with the “wild”, but our lives changed for the better. We turned off our devices, took in as much fresh air as we could and we just simply let go for enough time to return balance to our life.
For me, I look forward to that next time I can steal away my kids’ away by going to a PG movie, pilfer their popcorn, enjoy their laughter afterwards and take home a positive message about life. When that happens, the world will again be less noisy and my family will be that much stronger.