Saturday, February 6, 2021


April 2019

Lately, I have begun to view mundane phenomena as metaphors that might be meaningful. 

If the traffic is bad on the way to work, I wonder if my life is essentially a series of stops and starts, a bumpy impeded journey. And I consider how I might pursue a less trammeled life.  If I get behind a garbage truck, I think that on our life journeys we are, periodically, compelled to smell something foul. If shifting the manual transmission becomes annoying, I wonder about the merits of living a life on automatic without having to bother making adjustments.

The flight is bumpy on the way back to Boston.  And even though we were warned by the pilot, still, two hours into the trip I am jarred by the turbulence.   The flight becomes comfortable after we pass Denver but when we hit Chicago we’re again told to check our seatbelts and not move around the cabin.  We are sure to get jostled by this or that.

There are similarities between this flight and my path.  I'm comfortable. A tenured professor. A nice roof over my head, steady income, people who love me, an enjoyable job...but I know that something is not quite right.  It is as if I have a meter in my heart and head that registers the extent to which I am self-actualized and that meter has been at a mid point for some time.  A comfortable ride lending itself to periodic jostling.  Things settle for a spell and then I am reminded that I am not what I could be and fear that what has kept me from what I could be is the courage to take the steps that would get me there.  I wonder if I have not done the right things at a number of crossroads and have just taken a paved route. Not necessarily an evil path, but one that is not entirely ethical either. 

And now I see an article in a newspaper and I know that I can do something and should do something that will be difficult.  It will take me out of my comfort zone.  And I also know that if I don't do what I should do the comfort zones for me will be forever illusory and I will be reminded with a jolt now and again, that there is something I could have and should have done.

Where I am and where anyone is can be a result of luck. I was in a restaurant with my nephew one day sitting across from him at the table. He was sitting there because decades prior I needed to buy a book and decided to buy it at a particular moment.  I got on a line at the university bookstore and stood behind a woman I’d never seen before. She liked my hat. The line was long and we talked.  We got the books and decided to meet the next day. We started dating. We each had younger siblings. We introduced them. We broke up. They got married.  My nephew is sitting across the table from me.  Had I gotten on the book line thirty minutes later the kid is not there.   

Yet where I am and where anyone is can be a result of conscious decisions we have made as well as luck. I didn’t have to talk with the woman on the book line. She could have decided not to comment on my hat.  I saw the newspaper in the airport. I noticed the article. I read it. Now what. 

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