“Fool’s Gold” and the empty hunt

Last night my girlfriend and I watched the film “Fool’s Gold” featuring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. It was directed by Andy Tennant.

The story focuses on Benjamin Finnegan, played by McConaughey, a deep-sea treasure hunter who has wasted his life chasing the lost treasure of a Spanish Galleon known as the Aurelia. Tess – played by Kate Hudson – has decided she’s had enough of his whimsical dreams and divorces him – despite her own fascination with the treasure of the Aurelia. She commits herself to divorcing Ben, returning to normal society, and finishing school as she finds a more stable, predictable partner.

Soon after their divorce Ben finds himself abandoned at sea until he is discovered and brought aboard a yatch by Nigel Honeycutt – played by Donald Sutherland. Honeycutt is on an aimless vacation with his daughter Gem – played by Alexis Dzienna. In an effort to finance her new life, Tess finds work on the same yatch as a waitress.

Soon after climbing aboard the yatch, Ben captivates Nigel, Gem, and even Tess with his theories about the lost treasure. Nigel – who has no shortage of coin – finds a purpose. Gem discovers an adventure that cuts through the superficial interests of her vapid social life. Tess succumbs once again to Ben’s charming yet fruitless pursuit. And Ben finds the support and resources he needs to make his pipe dream a reality.

If you wrote a story about these characters and their lives after finding the treasure, nobody would watch it, or care. It would have to end in tragedy. What would be the point? I think this is a fairly obvious realization, yet that conclusion elevates in importance when you realize what this story is really about.

It doesn’t matter what our dream is, or the length of time we have been pursuing it. It does not matter the amount of progress we have made, nor does it matter the struggles we have endured. There is a vision in your mind that you alone have been granted access to. That vision by itself is enough to fuel years or effort, decisions of regret, and a hollow belly of return on investment.

We can spin tales about our dreams that seduces others into believing in us. We can connect dots on a future timeline that land us directly in our own mirage. We find competitors who will fight to the death to find our treasure before we do. But most importantly, we will happily and eagerly forfeit a safer and more secure position in society to remain on an expedition that seemingly ruins us.

It is ironic to me that Nigel Honeycutt enthusiastically sets sail for this lost treasure. He is already wealthy beyond imagination. In the eyes of a safe and secure society, he has already achieved the ultimate ranking in social hierarchy. In his own perspective, however, it is Ben who is rich, and he who is poor.

You are on a treasure hunt. It is filled with obstacles that will strike you into the dirt. Your learning may propel you forward but its execution will repeatedly go unrewarded. The morning will begin with aspiration and the evening will end in despair. But you will wake up, and you will do it again, and again, and again.

Why?

Because your treasure is out there. You are not the only one mad with desire to uncover it. Many will forfeit the journey long before they bring shovel to sand. Many others will find themselves lost along the way, failing to see they misunderstood the map’s instructions. And many, many others will stand idly by, watching treasure after treasure get discovered rather than unfolding the map that is in their own pocket.

It’s not the treasure that we’re after. It’s the hunt that we live for.