I did some research if there’s indeed a thing called “Big Year.” According to Wikipedia, a “Big Year is an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area.”
The movie is humorous but there is a wealth of lesson that can be learned by watching the film. Jack Black (as Brad Harris), Owen Wilson (as Kenny Bostick) and Steve Martin (as Stu Preissler) starred the movie.
Characters (to give some context)
Kenny Bostick is reputed to be the best birder in the world because he holds the record of seeing 732 birds in one calendar year. Now some birders like Brad Harris and Stu Preissler are also doing a Big Year.
Brad Harris is a fulltime employee who dreams of topping Bostick’s records. He’s very good with bird calls. Problem is that he doesn’t have the luxury of time and resources to do a Big Year. He even borrows money from his dad to fulfill his dream. At one point he maxed out the credit cards that he have. Imagine spending more or less $10,000 just to see more than 732 bird species in a year!
Stu Preissler is a businessman who plans on retiring and wants to spend his first year of retirement doing a Big Year.
There are birding practices depicted here that are not advisable if you really want to enjoy this activity. One, Bostick often wears bright colored clothes and he is always on the run or he is running doing the activity. I was advised to wear earth color clothes and to walk slowly when I bird. Two, once he spots the bird, that’s it! No appreciation of details or sorts. Well, it’s a Big Year and it is a race! Three, there are occasions also that he puts down other birders.
I guess you have to be spiritually keen to see the problem of pride, especially in the character of Bostick. He doesn’t want anyone to beat his record. He will compromise or give up time with his wife who is so desperate to build a family. He will put down others. He will rather spend Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve alone to find a bird than spend time with a love one. By the way, he is called the “birding machine.”
You could be able to do amazing feats but not at the expense of family. This is the amazing thing with Harris and Preissler. Harris still goes home even if his dad doesn’t approve of his hobby. He went to hospital when his dad had a heart attack. He still persisted to show to his dad that his hobby is not a waste of time. At the end, his dad joined him to see the great grey owl and it’s his dad who spotted the bird. Preissler went home to see his grandchild and said that it’s his rare find.
Friendship is also valuable treasure to earn. You may have the largest list of seen bird in the world but if you don’t have someone to share it with then I think it’s useless.
Honesty. I have seen in the film that one can come up with a list and say that he saw or heard them all. But truth is that he could have cheated somewhere in the quest. If I remember it right, the main code of conduct is “Honor and Decency.”
Passion. Although for the case of Bostick it’s quite on a negative side, I would say that the three have passion for their hobby, which is birding. No matter how extravagant or illogical their goals are in seeing the most birds, goals or dreams are still worth pursuing. Passion also involves knowing the things you ought to know about your hobby. Harris listens to MP3 recordings of bird calls. One has to know bird behavior, what attracts birds, where do birds go during migration and fallouts.
I’m against the “drop-everything-and-do-what-you-want-to-do” attitude of Bostick. As a Christian, my priority is to enjoy God first and foremost and to love his church and to love my family. Anything that doesn’t rightly fall in these priorities becomes secondary. That is why I don’t bird on Sunday because it is the time I worship and serve the Lord with fellow saints.
I think I have written long enough about the movie. I might spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet. One last thing, it is also important to enjoy!
p.s.There is an interesting review also that I saw in the web about the movie: http://www.pluggedin.com/videos/2012/q1/bigyear.aspx.