By Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)
In the documentary A Story Worth Living, John Eldredge, celebrated author of Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, posits that, “The human heart is made for an epic story.” And then, he embraces both the capability of man and the mortality of man, by setting out on his own epic, an eight day, 1,000 mile motorcycle trek with his three sons (Sam, Blaine, and Luke) and two friends (Dan Allender and Jon Dale). The journey consists of navigating grueling Colorado mountain passes, coping with wipeouts and cracked ribs, and conquering fears of the spiritual, psychological, and physical variety. All the while, John explores not only his own story, but encourages us all to embrace our role in the story–the big picture, the universal narrative that has gone on and will go on forever. How do we do this? The film seems to argue that we live a grand story by recognizing our suffering and continuing to seek beauty in spite of that suffering.
This film resonates on many levels. First, from an occupational standpoint, my personal understanding of Saddleback Leather is that our mission is to be part of the many stories of our customers’ lives. In doing this, they become part of our story. I joined this company because I believed that Saddleback had the potential to inspire people to live their dreams, and because some proceeds literally change lives in places like Rwanda. I’ve seen pictures of Dave Munson’s bags next to monuments around the world. I can only hope that a message of Christian fellowship and of cultural open-mindedness follows the bags. As a member of Team Saddleback, I embrace John Eldredge’s “epic” philosophy. At every twist and turn on the mountain roads, he encourages his family to push past their doubts and to live a grand life. That’s something that we hope we are doing here at Saddleback. It (life, work, relationships) can be a grind if we dwell on the negative and on the things that inevitably go wrong. Just like John and company, we will face obstacles. Dan takes a pretty nasty fall in the film. He cracks a few ribs, takes a nice poke to the lung. Then, he gets up and rides on for days. This is not because he isn’t in pain, but because life is about embracing the beautiful in spite of the suffering. In fact, it is often out of suffering that we find the most beauty.
On the road, we visit two of the gang’s close friends. We see through their personal stories that sometimes the most beautiful things in life come from revisiting the darkest times in life. First, with Bart Hansen, a plane crash reveals buried emotional wounds. Rather than being haunted by the crash, Bart hangs the plane’s propeller in his workspace as a reminder that there is catharsis in overcoming the fearful. This is the equivalent of fighting a bear to the death and then stuffing him in the corner of the room. Later, we meet a rancher, Jim Winny, who believes God gifted him with a beautiful friendship with horses to see him through his abusive youth. Both men have found serenity despite early suffering in their lives. Both men have done this by pushing themselves to do great things–to build planes and fly high and to tame magnificent beasts.
I also relate to the themes in the film on a personal level. I am a writer by calling and I feel that this is a divine gift. My life revolves around studying narrative patterns. As the narrator, John points out the parallels between his convoy’s adventure and the story of life itself. When John Eldredge and company take to the road, they are actually giving a physical dimension to the journey every man takes from birth to death. The entire trip is a metaphor, and yet it is real. It is the story and yet it is only one part of another story.
Many reviewers of A Story Worth Living will speak of the physical aspects of this adventure. They will give you motorcycle models and tech specs. Others will write of the film’s beautiful cinematography. It’s true this film is shot in some of Colorado’s most captivating countryside. With the use of drones, director Erik Ticen is able to capture aerials like I’ve never seen in a motorcycle documentary. However, I find the true strength of the film lies in the relationships depicted between John and his sons, and with his friends. Erik works wonders in capturing the poignant moments. Sam, Blaine, and Luke have obviously inherited their father’s zest for life and we see that joy breeds joy. And in Dan Allender, we see a man with an enduring spirit who has turned his own dark youth into a beacon of hope for others.
In a film that is chiefly about continuing to find beauty in life, it is important to know that beauty isn’t all aesthetic. Actually, beauty is in giving and receiving love. That these grown men are able to love one another and coach one another is a fine testament to the joy in their lives. That they are able to conquer fear, as John does when returning to the steadfast mountain that claimed the life of his best friend, is a testament to man’s capacity for courage and grace. I now believe, more than ever, that man should always seek out adventure. It is in these staged journeys that we find the microcosmic journey of our entire lives, and of humanity as a whole. Perhaps that is why these experiences are so transformative to our minds and revitalizing to our souls.
The film debuts this Thursday May 19th at 7:30 local time for one night only. Buy tickets here!
Nick Bridwell is a novelist and journalist living with his wife Jessica in North Texas. His debut novel, The Ties That Bind, is available here: http://amzn.com/0990573702. He is a frequent contributor to the Saddleback Employee Blog and Plano Magazine.