"You Don't Choose A Life, You Live One."
This quote comes from a line the movie "The Way" that I watched this summer while at Fort Knox. In a nutshell, the story follows a widower whose only child dies on the Camino De Santiago (CDS) in Europe. As a last minute change of mind and heart, the father chooses to finish his son's pilgrimage, challenging and changing his own life. The CDS is a pilgrimage of about seven hundred miles. Many have died on the trail. Parts of the story are told through flashback discussions between the father and his son. The above quote is from one of those discussions.
In many ways our life's journey is much like a pilgrimage. Much like the father in The Way, we may think that we have our lives down pat. A career, a house, some adversity (but not too much) on the way, a family, yet, many people yearn for a more meaningful life. Some attempt to find this through faith, volunteerism, or diving more deeply into their career. Others chose drugs to "open" their mind. Sometimes we have to allow our lives to be altered in other ways. But what if there was a more profound way to change our lives and find meaning in it. One that accepts the journey, not just the destination.
I think that our life's journeys are made up of the people and relationships that we make along the way. Some are for only a minute, an hour, or a day. Others are longer. A year, several years, decades, or for the rest of our lives.
But, to be honest with ourselves, I think that it even goes deeper than that. Why are we skeptical of the powerful emotions and feelings in our lives? Why do we avoid the mystical experiences that can be had every day? People and experiences change us. They become orbits in our lives, affecting us much like the planets and stars affect each other in their orbits. We become so involved in planning our lives, we forget to live our lives. I am just as guilty as the next person about this. Desiring a modicum of control over the events in my own life drives me batty at times. Other times I can accept the changes both big and small. This is still a challenge in my own life.
Sometimes our dreams and desires change as we journey through our life. I am not talking about mid-life crisis or the permission to leave spouses and go chase the ever elusive happiness somewhere else. Stay with the orbits picture. Think about how a comet can be traveling in the orbit of a much larger star, yet, its own orbit takes it close to a planet that this also orbiting around the same star. Both the comet and the planet can be affected by their close passage to each other. Again, they may pass each other after a brief encounter, yet both are marked by thier passage. Think about somebody from your own life. Somebody who you only briefly knew, yet, you still can recall their name and the circumstances of your meeting.
Why do we avoid the mystical in our lives? Even people of faith are wary of mystics. Is it due to the perceived "all in" nature of mystics? I think that most mystics are just as awed by thier own experiences as would be the rest of us. The biggest difference that I can see on the face of the it, is that mystics are willing to allow themselves, or surrender themselves, to experience such things and are able to recognize it. Much of the hesitantcy that many people feel I think is due to the "noise" that is encountered in our everyday life, much of it intentional. I am not saying to go be a hermit somewhere, but being able to find the quiet in each day, to reflect on the choices made, paths taken, or avoided. Some of our lives are more stories of avoidance than stories of choices. Yet, choosing to avoid something is still a choice, having potentially far reaching effects.
Powerful feelings and emotions we hold close to ourselves have an influence here. We may choose a particular path due strongly held feelings, emotions, and beliefs. I am not asking to change your mind, what I am asking you to do to find out why you feel or believe something. When I was in college I had a particular professor for a Biblical Survey and Thought class. From day one, he was constantly throwing out ideas that ran counter to what I had been raised on in the church. I spent a lot of time in his office arguing against the points that he had brought in class. Then I realized that what he was actually doing was challenging us to find out what we believed and find the proof of it or the faith to believe it. Regardless, I soon found my own faith strengthened due to the study that I had to put into it.
Letting go of our life's plans and dreams can be frightening. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we have to do this, this letting go of the dream job, the dream home, the dream mate. What I am saying is that we have to be willing to let go of it all.
"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
In the military, there is a saying attributed to the unofficial code of war known as "Murphy's Law":
"No plan survives first contact intact."
There is nothing wrong with planning your life. Just be open the possible change that life will bring to your plan.