picture courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo
I had this talk with a good friend a few days ago. It was a long talk, it was about life, and we ended up sitting at the table for probably three hours. I don’t think the waiters liked us that much.
It had been a long time since I’ve had a ‘sit down’ chat with her, or with anyone really, about things that matter. And while she was going through something, the idea of ‘the great journey to enlightenment’ was brought up.
When I was about 14 or 15, there was this anime called Honey and Clover, about art students, and one of the main characters up and left, and travelled for bit on his bicycle to ‘find himself’. Or at least that’s what I remember. That concept stuck with me. I was always interested in the ‘great journey’.
And I guess this idea appeals to so many others. Movies/books like ‘Wild’, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, ‘Hector’s and the Search for Happiness’ or ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. Even ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘Up’, in some ways. All these characters ‘up and leave’ their normal lives and go on this trip. I love that genre of books or movies. I look for the ones that could possibly be inspirational.
And, I long to go on such a trip myself.
But here’s the thing. All of that exists merely in fiction for a good reason. There are so few of us, maybe simply the lucky 1% (and perhaps, even that is an overestimation!), that are financially capable, or even responsibility-free enough to do that.
It is so easy to get caught up in the romance of that situation, of that possibility. I think there is this primal need in a lot of us to ‘go out and make something of ourselves’ or have that ‘GREAT ADVENTURE’. We all want to do something amazing. And we all crave that special time where the heavens open and we are bestowed with our life’s purpose.
It has taken me a long time to understand this, but not everyone gets that massive trip. For most of us, the ‘unlucky few’, it is the daily struggles that are our journey. It’s finding the meaning in having to wake up to a not particularly charming existence. Or to going to a job that you aren’t 100% in love with. Or having to do the menial chores because you’re a grown up and you can’t live in filth.
St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, has this motto about daily work being a form of prayer. You don’t have to be religious, or Catholic, to appreciate that. It’s more of finding meaning and purpose in your daily toil. You don’t have to necessarily go out and serve in a lepers commune for you to find meaning in life, or to do a good deed. Your daily work, just giving your best, just making the most out of what is handed to you.. THAT is the prayer, that is the purpose.
Sure, it would be wonderful if we could all go out and find the greater meaning. But finding the meaning in where you are at this moment in time, is what really counts. Not some flight to the middle of nowhere. Not quitting your job and shipping off to Antartica.
It’s the here and now that matters.