On occasion you'll read a book, see a film or perhaps hear a selection of music that will have a dramatic effect on how you view life. It may be a single paragraph in the book, a single line in the film, or a single phrase in the lyric. Yet still, it has the ability to transform.
As we close out this year and look towards the next, I want to share one such instance in my life.
It was a Wednesday evening, October 26 to be precise, and my wife and I had gone to the cinema to see The Way. This is a film written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen. The story of The Way is of a father who must travel overseas to recover the body of his son who died while walking the pilgrim route, the El Camino de Santiago. Once there he decides to take the pilgrimage himself and through it, rekindles the relationship with his son, and more importantly, himself.
During a flashback sequence, we see Sheen's character driving his son Daniel (Estevez) to the airport so that he can leave for his pilgrimage. During the drive, Sheen (not looking at his son) says, "this is the life I have chosen." Daniel turns to his father and says, "You don't choose a life dad, you live one." This exchange, coupled with the premise of self-rediscovery, were cause for a transformative occasion in my life!
You see, all too often I would be focused on a destination; a goal. This is not to say that having a destination or a goal is a bad. To the contrary, they are not. Nor are having dreams for what may lie ahead in a near or distant future. However, when the drive towards a destination or the pursuit of a goal obscures or takes away the adventure of the journey, then something is out of balance. This has been my life.
I have spent most of my life looking ahead to what I hoped the next thing to be; to what my plan was for the next month, the next year, or the next five years. Then I began consider what I know to be the truth, which is, that we are not assured our next month, our next year or that we may be able to enjoy what was to come in five years. The truth is that we are only assured of the moment that we have right now.
Does this mean that I will not look ahead? No. I will still look to the future and I will plan for things that I wish to do. My wife and I hope to return to Europe, to travel, and perhaps, to live there again someday. We have cross country train trips we have in mind that we'd like to take. There are places I wish to see that I have yet to see; Venice, Vienna, the Greek Isles, the Isle of Iona, the Grand Canyon, and the list goes on. So yes, I will still look and work towards these things. But, in doing so, I will not forego the privilege and the pleasure of this moment. I hope not to miss an occasion to experience the adventure of life now because I am focused on a later occasion that is not guaranteed.
As we look forward to the coming year and make our resolutions, I suppose you may tally this as my resolution. As it concerns my life, I resolve to live one! That may mean I enjoy stopping to take a photograph or draw a picture. It may be an evening reading a book or laying on the floor playing with the dog. It could be taking a walk with my wife or enjoying a picnic in the park. It is trying a new recipe for dinner or dining at a new restaurant. It is visiting a gallery or strolling through the botanical gardens. It is laying on my back in the yard looking at the clouds or playing with the grandchildren. It could be any number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with some future time and has everything to do with the living life in whatever moment presents itself.
I suppose you can say that in my own way, I too am on a pilgrimage. I am on my own El Camino de Santiago. Along my way I seek to find and reclaim the joy, the adventure, and the complete excitement of what it means to live!