Time Off and Moving Forward

I had initially planned to take a few days between blog posts. That time came and passed.

Fast forward slightly more than two weeks, and I have experienced an ample delay that has brought me to a point where I must again engage my mind in the process of clear and reflective thought. This is not to suggest that my life has been void of such over the past sixteen days; however, writing possesses a fundamental value that mandates men to think deeply and intentionally of their past experiences and desires for future growth.

Taking time off from writing provided the detachment needed to recognize that although I enjoy the praise and sentiment offered by others (in regards to posts they’ve enjoyed), I do not directly seek such attention. In fact, if anything, such applaud motivates me to ask the question, “Why do we seek refuge from the production of other men?” I mean this not to cast judgement in any form, but instead to notice the inevitable truth that seems consistent to my being and congruent to my growth: it is often easier, or at least more natural, to accept wisdom and advice from others than it is to turn inward for meaning and progress. Perhaps it is the vulnerability associated with trusting our own intuition that pushes us away from our thoughts and convictions. Then again, perhaps not. Any way that this phenomenon of personal thought is dissected, I have learned that when I am consciously aware of my being and aggressively seeking forward motion, I can learn to empower my own mind.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson admonished man to recognize greatness in his own life and thought, so too did one of his most emphatic passages from “Self-Reliance,” his landmark essay that resonated with many of his contemporaries and modern Romantics. Emerson wrote:

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. (1-2)

So if we do reject our own thoughts, only to recognize them later in the works that others produce, then how do we cope? How do we deal with the frustrations of our own doing? How do we move forward when much of what is behind us has led to a mountain of both excellence and discontent? How do we reconcile our mixed efforts? Among a culture and society that highlights failure but quickly dismisses achievement in the name of meeting expectations, how do we value our progress and the individual capable of so much? The answer will never be the same for all of us.

The tangled web of understanding and truth that each man seeks may never fully present itself, though each man may, as Emerson perhaps intended to suggest, spin his own web among a world full of hindrances and impediments. Each man might build such a mental framework that he may be capable of navigating the treachery known as self-doubt, judgement, outside pressures, fear, and anxiety of the unknown. Each man may eventually teach himself to trust his own construction rather than that of men before him and beside him. If this can become the case for any one man, then it can surely be the case for me.

If taking time off from writing has taught me that Emerson had a point or two, then I really haven’t learned anything new–after all, I have been teaching many of his works among my English classes for a few years now; however, like any medium worth revisiting, a fresh lens of examination can sometimes provide a new focal point, understanding, or perceived value. This is the beauty of leaving oneself open to the continuum of growth and exploration, for adventures only cease to exist when you allow such to happen.

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”

-Helen Keller

Branching Out

The feature image above is taken from adrenalinefanatics, a website that, as its name suggests, explores experiences that promote adrenaline rushes through various types of extreme sports, breathtaking adventures, and impressive feats. So while this blog entry has nothing to do with dogs or any sort of animal (except the common man!), it will explore ideas of existence, nature, and our understanding of the world we inhabit.

I chose to select an image from the Internet that would challenge me to branch out and write from the perspective of the person contained within the image. For this task, I decided to first find the image and then later read about its background and subject. So for those interested in discovering the truth behind this image, visit the website link noted in the introductory paragraph. For those interested in reading my brief reflection titled “My Inner Conflict,” a short, creative inner-monologue about a fictional character that finds himself reflecting on his life and its meaning while literally sitting atop a rope as depicted in the image above, enjoy the work outlined below:

My Inner Conflict

As a matter of speech, I have been at the end of my rope for some time. I have contemplated meaning, existence, and how the two can stand the thought of one another. How is it possible that one can live but fail to find meaning among their days? How is it that one can find meaning but question how they are to utilize its nature to define their existence? Maybe I am overthinking these ideas as I sit atop an empty space of air and clouds that simultaneously feels full of life and truth—a paradox if ever there were. I sit here, rope tied firmly to my waist, and I contemplate all that is beneath and everything above.

I spent sixteen long and arduous years as a trail guide, climbing instructor, and survival expert for a national park that specialized in providing tourists a glimpse of the world they rarely saw or experienced—if a greater juxtaposition exists, I am not aware. How some spend their lives in cubicles, apartment buildings, cafés, and other man-made, restrictive entities and then seek reprieve through nature-based tours, but only for a brief period of time before returning to their iPads, Smart TVs, and fast-paced lifestyles, baffles me more than my own confusing thoughts on man’s purpose.

The most perplexing client that ever graced my presence among my guided tours asked me if I felt disconnected from the rest of the world due to all of my time spent in nature. I did not know how to answer him. I still do not know how to answer him. Yes, I sometimes feel lost without my phone, Internet, and host of social media feeds that keep me “connected.” But more often than not, I feel more connected than ever when I deliberately disconnect from the advents of the modern world and plug into the natural, or dare I say, real world.

And so I stand, or rather sit, atop a thin rope that feels more like the world at large, for it carries great burden and incredible opportunity all at once, and I still find no answers to the questions that have led to my uninhibited and wondrous excursion. As truth may have it, I may never unearth the secrets that my mind searches for, and though it may cause me even greater pain and suspense, these resolutions I so seek may not exist in the first place. Yet maybe this is the clarity before me that I have sought for so long: perhaps the cloud and veil of murky waters is exactly what one needs to eventually find transparent currents. If the river were clear and void of treachery, the adventure might not be worthy of our mindful attention to its exhausting and confusing ways.

And so the rope tightens, holding firmly to me as I to it, reminding me of the faith needed to continually and habitually contend with the forces that force my questions to the forefront of my ever-changing mind. Though I find myself at the end of this worn and tattered rope, I find that end to be willing me to depths of exploration and constant examination of my own travels and contributions to the world I may never understand, and I do so with the suspicion that it too may never fully understand me—an apparent truth that we must both live among in a universe of great mystery.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

-Albert Einstein