Sometimes, there is nothing quite like the true story of another human being's life and work to make you look at your own life choices in a different light.
This thought occurs to me after watching a twenty-something-year-old Jane Goodall fairly float through the Tanzanian jungle on the silver screen; her bare feet never hesitating in step, her long bronze legs carrying her swiftly through the space between dangling vines and fallen trees.
Now seated at her vantage point with pen and notes in hand, Jane's smooth young-adult face is clear and focused; concentrating, observing.
There is not a hint of distraction in the air around her.
With rare exception, it is as though she is totally unaware of the camera -- recently foisted upon her, against her wishes (and along with the attendant cameraman), by her funders at the National Geographic Society.
Her only goal, she declares in writing, is to be accepted by the tribe of chimpanzees that keeps fleeing from her across Gombe Stream National Park -- so that she can study them up close.
And this is the singular goal she will devote her entire life to achieving.
Even later -- after she and the cameraman fall in love and marry and have a baby boy they nickname "Grub," in a serendipitous turn of events she did not intend or anticipate -- this is the goal she will continue prioritizing, to the near-exclusion of everything else.
Even after her husband's work relocates him indefinitely to the Serengeti.
Even after young Grub's need for "socialization" demands that he, too, leave Gombe, and head off to London alone.
Throughout each of these compromises, Jane's face remains steadfast and fierce in its certainty.
It does not matter a whit what the headlines are booming about her around the globe; whether they are currently praising or damning her for her discoveries -- or attributing her ethnographic fame to that exquisite pair of long bronze legs.
What becomes obvious; what is so easy to admire about Jane Goodall, is how there was never an iota of doubt in her mind, that Gombe was exactly where she needed to be.
There is no visible fear, regret or confusion; we don't see her biting her nails or moaning about all that she's missing, by virtue of living with chimps in the east African forest.
There is only devotion to the world she has chosen; immersion in that which fascinates her; and revelry among the community wherein she feels the greatest sense of connection and wonder.
After vicariously experiencing her life for two hours, you can't help but leave the movie thinking:
How amazing and rare, to be so clear; so patiently singular in focus; so damn unapologetic about the strange and unconventional thing you feel inexorably drawn into doing.
... Which is not to say we all need to go and devote our lives to a single all-consuming pursuit that takes us away from husbands and families and indeed most of society for long stretches of time...
... But if we ever FELT like it...
... If it ever felt like the world was askingus to surrender parts of our individual identity, in order to step into something greater for humankind and for the planet...
... Would that we could ALL tap that deep well of inner conviction -- that still and sure place, where the voices of others fade blissfully to silence -- that Jane clearly tapped to fuel her life's work.