Thursday, March 06, 2008

Let the Hike begin here

I just noticed a few posts back that I had written about my New Years' Resolutions:
  1. Do some career exploration
  2. Reduce consumption of material things
  3. Go backpacking more
It seems I'm doing well on all three.

Career Exploration
I have been taking a class titled "Callings" which is intended to give you tools to find your true callings. This is not specifically a career class in that we're not trying to find the best job for our personalities or something similar. It's a little deeper than that.

The instructor has had us do many different exercises as well as reading a book titled "Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life". The book is very good, very poetic. It gets you thinking. It also seemed to have a lot of themes that kept popping up for me. The same themes kept popping up in the different exercises we did, too.

For example, when given the scenario:

"You wake up to find you are being escorted by an angel down a long hallway toward a light. The angle, who is holding your hand, turns to you and asks, 'So, what did you like best about it?' What is your reply?"

My immediate, uncensored answer was "the birds".

A few days before that class I took a break sitting in my car at a nearby park. It was raining at the time. I felt lonely, depressed and lost about the direction of my life. A flock of beautiful little birds had flown down to pick and peck around on the ground nearby. I just sat watching them feeling such joy at their tiny little bodies and their apparent joy in scratching around looking for food in the rain. They peeped at each other. Some stayed in the trees. One was an extraordinary yellow color. I felt such love for the birds.

While reading "Callings" for the class, themes of nature kept bubbling to the forefront. I'm sure there are lots of themes in the book. It's written like a poem. But the nature ones kept thumping me on the head. That and a passage on stillness and silence.

Gradually, as the classes kept meeting, the themes of nature and silence and sunshine on my face were echoing constantly in my head. More and more I became angry at the neon tube lights, the darkened office, the gray cubicle walls, the multi-tasking that disallows creativity and thought, and most of all the freezing cold air conditioning that had me wearing a scarf, hat, coat and gloves even on sunny beautiful days. I was angry I was trading all my life energy away in order to make someone else wealthy and myself completely impoverished of the things that matter most to me.

One evening, the teacher of the class mentioned the recent movie "The Bucket List" and asked if anybody had anything on their own bucket list. Instantly I just blurted out without thinking that I've always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

It's true. I have always wanted to hike it. At least since 1975 when my dad recieved a National Geographic book about it. I read that book many times over, eventually stole it from him (still have it), painted pictures of the pictures in the book and generally thought about it all these years as a "some day" thing. I remember even reading about a 66 year old woman who lived on the trail during the warm seasons with her goat, and lived on Social Security in a trailer park during other months. I used to have that article in my cubicle at work as my unofficial retirement plan.

I told the teacher about the trail, about my long-held desire to do it, about trail angels and the 66 year old goat lady, and about how wonderful life would be to have a pizza parlor in some little trailside town just to have hikers come in for resupply and share stories of their hiking adventures with me. I said I thought one could build a life around that trail. The teacher remarked how lit up I was talking about it. It was obvious this is my calling. Then she asked, "So what's stopping you?"

I was stunned for a moment. Then I realized it: Nothing. I have the money, can make the time, have most of the gear. And that's when it all started falling in to place. The direction I need to go became as clear as a well-worn hiking trail through a forest.

It's not the whole calling however. It's just the start. And I'll write about the rest later. On to the other resolutions.

Reduce consumption of material things
I have been doing this and it is not hard at all. My only splurge was to buy a Mountain Dulcimer. Music is something that's recently been awakened in me. The book said that sometimes rekindling things we once did in childhood starts us on the path to finding our callings. Perhaps that is what my recent return to making music has done for me. I'm not a great musician and have no desire to make a career as a musician. I simply enjoy it.

I wanted to reduce my consumption of material things as an environmental goal and also as a statement against things in our culture that bother me. It's actually not hard to do at all. Except that I do need a few items for my big hike, like shoes and socks.

I see that this resolution is a piece of the larger puzzle for me as far as my calling goes. I see the reduction of material consumption as a personal value. I see rampant over-consumption as a root of many cultural and environmental problems. If one purpose of my life is to love the Earth and over-consumption is destroying what I love, I need to do something about it. I'm not sure what exactly that will be at the moment.

Reducing my own consumption is a way to "put my money where my mouth is". The hike itself is literally about "walking my talk". When I get back, I hope to have my ideas more fully formed on this subject and then I can "talk my walk" about it, hopefully to inspire some change in other people's lives.

Go backpacking more
Need I say more about this one?

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