Going Somewhere

We're always supposed to be going somewhere (the Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere" notwithstanding). Progress and growth mean being on the road to somewhere, although some of us wish to take the road less travelled while others are happy to adopt the goals others set for them, set their sights accordingly, and head out. Just "being" is usually not accepted as being on the road to somewhere. We worry that our kids need to be on the road to college and future success by being (only?) involved in resume-building activities. In our careers, we're supposed to be on the road that goes up the corporate ladder - who wants to admit they're happy to stay right where they are in assistant positions or middle management or in the file room?

(Speaking of the file room, in the mid- 70's, I knew some folks who truly did drop out of the rat race - a two- PhD couple who gave up the competitive academic world to work in a state agency's file room and "live simply" in a one-room cottage in the country with dogs, a garden, and a motorcycle. People said various things about them, some critical, some admiring, but in the end their experiment, like the communes that sprang up during the 60's, was a failure. One of them found living simply to include abandoning all societal expectations, like monogamy, and the other decided that this was not ok after all.)

Making our way through life is a great adventure. Not all of it turns out as planned. Much of that is actually fortuitous - our personal growth springs from dealing with adversity, changes of plan, being able to take advantage of opportunities, and living with and through uncertainty. But I think that "just being" ought to be an accepted part of everyone's journey, starting with childhood and going through adolescence and on into adulthood's stages as well. We need to stop and take stock every now and then, to reassess our location and decide whether or not we wish to proceed. We need to stop and just admire the view, in age-appropriate "just looking at the clouds" behavior. It needs to be ok to turn around or take a fork in the road or just to sit for a while not going anywhere. We need to get better at being present to where we are, to the people around us, to ourselves.

I think we do better at contemplative spirituality - lots of people value the idea of being present to God in silence and contemplation, to rest in the arms of God as Thomas Keating says. And while I don't at all advocate separation of the spiritual life from other parts of one's life, there is still something about just being that isn't the same as being present to God in silence. Being present to others is often not in silence. Being present to ourselves is necessary too.

Life is a journey, there is a path that we all follow, we are fellow pilgrims in this life. I value all that. I use that metaphor all the time and have written about it frequently here. But there are times, as the beautiful hymn "It came upon a midnight clear" says, that we should rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing. To just be and be ok with that.