Get off the ride, turn off your phone (or throw it into the ocean), reject the drumbeat of social media, and restore a sense of peace, pace and perspective to your life.
You’ll find the full essay below: originally a chapter in the working manuscript of my third book Blue Skyways. Although I chose not to include this essay in the final manuscript, I still like it and believe it has value, so I am posting it here for you. I hope you enjoy it!
No job. No wife. No house. A little money...and 12 months of free airfare.
What would you do?
That's the question I asked myself at the beginning of 2019, leading me on the adventure of a lifetime, from the coast of Portugal, to the sands of Morocco, to the islands of Panama, with many places beyond and between.
Blue Skyways tells the astounding stories of the people I met on that journey, how I was affected, and about the perspective of a man who has been around the sun 63 times and across the world a few. As you will learn, death became my travel companion, partly at my invitation.
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The Wisdom of Pace
There is a pace to travel, a certain “hurry up and wait” sense of timing that comes from spending time on the road. I might rush to the bus station to be on time for the 10:20 bus, only to learn it left at 10:10 for reasons unknown. The next bus doesn’t come for hours.
Now I have a choice to make. I could grumble about the bus being early and how I now have to wait. Rag, rag, rag. That’s a choice…one way to respond to a circumstance.
But there is another way forward, an idea nicely captured in the title of Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. In that book, Friedman tells the story of how he was late for an appointment with a very busy colleague, one whose secretary manages his time in five minute increments.
When Friedman finally arrived (late), he apologized, but the man brushed it aside. “No,” he said. “Thank you for being late.”
Friedman was baffled, so the man explained. “You see, my time is managed so tightly, I rarely have 20 minutes just to myself,” he said. “Your lateness was actually a gift. I was able to breathe and rest for a spell.”
What a wonderful response. This busy man, whether he knew it or not, was practicing a high level of spirituality that accepts what is without judgement. He accepted where he was, in that moment, without demanding that he be anywhere else, or doing anything else, other than just resting, waiting, and breathing in that place. He was like a yoga practitioner who accepts his pose exactly as it is, not trying to strike someone else’s pose, or to live by someone else’s expectations. This is true spirituality.
I love gaining chunks of time this way. Nothing to do but wait, write in my journal, meditate, chat with a friend, sip a cappuccino, give my wet underwear more time to dry in the wind, or just watch the grass grow. Moments like those offer the opportunity to enjoy, as my Italian friend tells me, “Dolce far Niente,” that is, “The sweetness of doing nothing.”
I confess such sweetness is a foreign concept for me. I am infamous for trying to squeeze ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag. I am never bored, always busy, and historically proud of that. Once again, my ego drives me to always be accomplishing something, always be summiting, and never resting.
But when I am with my Italian friend, the difference between my pace and hers becomes starkly obvious. I realize then I am paying a high price for my ego’s demands, a price likely extracted from both my physical health and my sanity.
In the highly “accelerated” world Friedman describes in his book, everything keeps happening faster and faster, like an out of control merry-go-round, the painted ponies of current events thrashing up and down with sickening speed, the organ music spiraling upward to an infinite climax, and information coming in so fast the world outside blurs into a smear. On that ride, there is precious little room for the soul, or the “still, small voice” of God. There is, too often, no room for beauty, or nature, or talking with a child. There is no room for being late.
If that describes your world, then it’s good to get off the ride, turn off your phone (or throw it into the ocean), reject the drumbeat of social media, and restore a sense of peace, pace and perspective to your life. Travel helps you do that, but something else does too.
For additional thoughts on pace, check out my post on Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez and People from the Future. Here’s an excerpt:
There are people from the future among us now…poets, artists, mystics and yes…AOC. We conservatives would be wise to pay attention to their message.
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