I met Aaron coming down on the night train from Budapest to Venice. He came on in Zagreb and took the seat in front of me. I slept on and off almost all the way to Ljubljana, and then Aaron woke me up to tell me I had to show my ticket to the conductor.
From that moment on, even though we were both tired and many people got on the train at the next station, we talked a lot. I found out he was American and he was traveling thru Europe; he told me how much he likes Italy, he spoke Italian better than I did.
We talked about his studies, and what kind of job he expects to get when he gets back home. He told me he was on a journey to discover who he is and, almost by default we started talking about life--what was the point of it all? What are we supposed to achieve? He told me he would like his life to have some meaning.
I told him how my work with the orphans and the homeless, and my years of volunteering has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Things that others strive for in order to be "successful" have never appealed to me. I always thought there had to be more, there had to be a way out, there had to be a door somewhere.
Recently I watched a movie that I like to call "The Movie that Changed My Life". It's the story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who sets out to find his path in life in an unconventional way. He was a bright, clever guy, who had it all going for him; but he wanted more. And he went out to look for it! There are so many people who are discontent with the way the world goes,and yet they never leave their comfort zone to find their life mission. They are born into a pattern they cannot for the life of them break out of. They search for the light and find lightbulbs. They want wind and they have to be content with electric fans. They toil day and night for a life they hate and nothing makes sense.
When we find someone who is brave enough to break free and sets out to discover their path, we should celebrate their courage! Some people say Chris was selfish, eccentric, crazy, arrogant and naive, a fool. I personally think, what he did was fantastic! My sister asked me jokingly if I will go off to the mountains by myself like Chris did. I told her
"It's not about going off to eat wild berries, it's about following your heart!"
One line that stuck with me, which I think it's the most important message of the movie is when Chris scribbles down "happiness only real when shared". As much as I admire Chris' adventure into the wild, (and in no way do I want to minimize his quest), it takes a lot more guts to know the world is screwed-up and face it! I would be "easy" to run off and create a perfect world for ourselves, whereas it takes a lot strength to stay and change the world from within.
Nevertheless Chris' story inspired me! It gives me hope to know there are people out there who are idealistic and want their life to have a meaning, like Chris, and like Aaron. Hopefully we will remember that living for others is the only success worth striving for, the only real source of happiness.
"...and when we love, God's light shines on us!"