"I've Been To A Town"or How Jeremiah Johnson Explains Everything
I frequently use movie quotes or scenes to provide a backdrop or framework for the things I write about. My favorite movie of all time is a Robert Redford film called Jeremiah Johnson. It’s interesting that it’s my favorite, because I was only seven years old when it came out. I can’t say it was my favorite movie as a kid, but my parents loved the movie, so I saw it many times over the years, and came to appreciate it more each time I saw it.
Redford is Jeremiah Johnson, a Mexican-American War veteran who decides to retreat from “normal” life to the solitude of the Rocky Mountains. The storyline shows his progression from novice mountain man to weathered, wiser, and almost mythical figure to those who make the mountains their home. We never find out exactly why, but it is apparent that Johnson is searching for something that he cannot find “down below”. In a scene with fellow, mountain man Del Gue, Johnson delivers what I believe is the best line of the film. Del is aware of much of the pain and hardship that Jeremiah has endured and tells him, “maybe you best go down to a town; get outta these mountains.” After a pause, Jeremiah soberly replies “I’ve been to a town Del.” Those six words sum up his entire life before withdrawing to the mountains. We don’t know any of the details of that previous life, but we understand exactly what he is saying.
Many of us go through life searching for something other than what we have or what we’re doing. Why is that? I’ve spoken and written quite a bit about my belief that we tend to become comfortable in our lives, and sometimes it makes us sedentary. We talk a big game about doing things that we’re passionate about, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s more comfortable to drive the smooth-shifting sedan of our current situation. We’ve forgotten how it feels to press that clutch, shift those gears, and really drive. We get out of school, get a job, get married, have some kids, and settle into the routine of life. We’re so busy while we’re doing it, we don’t realize what has happened until we hit that middle part of life and say, “Wait…how did I get here?” That’s typically when the searching begins.
Searching for what? That answer may be different for each of us, but at some point in our lives, I think we all yearn for something that feeds our souls. I don’t mean our wants and desires; I mean the feeling deep inside us that we can’t quite explain. I’m saying that we shouldn’t wait to find out what makes our heart sing. This is not some new idea I just came up with. It’s been recycled in some form for as long as most of us can remember. We all know this in theory, but we still contend that “there will be time for that stuff later.” Get out your highlighter for this next piece of advice: don’t wait. Seriously, regardless of your age, don’t wait. If we wait for conditions to be just right, we’ll never pull the trigger. Pull the trigger on what? That’s what you have to decide. Is it a new career that you’re more passionate about? Maybe it’s a different attitude toward your current career and doing it better. Whether it’s career related or not, look for things that bring you joy. Addressing the needs of others may be the best soul feeding endeavor of all. More often than not, I find that the people who help make others’ lives better, are usually the ones that end up being “fed” more than they “feed.”
Jeremiah Johnson wanted to search for his answers in solitude. Modern life makes that almost impossible for us – plus, this world could use more community and togetherness. If you’re searching for something different, look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. What do you want to do? What brings you joy? What can you do to impact others in a positive way? The tag line underneath my name on my website says reach…grow…do. Those three words require action. I challenge you to make those words part of your life, and I believe they will keep you moving toward whatever it is you seek.