journal

A Collection of Words on Why We Wander

I read this blog post today – We Are Overdoing This Travel Thing – and found it a very refreshing take on the way Gen-Y portray and perceive travelling . Some of us wander to escape, to bum out not burn out, to see new countries and chase new horizons, to blog or be a “traveller” or a “travel blogger”, or to simply be. These are good reasons to travel. But some of us wander to seek, to find our next steps, to walk enough until we eventually figure out how to walk this new path with purpose.

Some words of others I have collected on what it is to wander and go walkabout.

“The world is blue at its edges and in its depth. This blue is the light that gets lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperse among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colourless… The blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance.
The colour of distance is the colour of an emotion: the colour of solitude and desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go. For the blue is not in that place, those miles away from the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit

“All the great teachers have preached that 'Man, originally, was a wanderer in the scorching and barren wilderness of this world' – the words are those of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor – and that to rediscover his humanity, he must slough off attachments and take to the road.
If this were so, then it is easier to understand why greener pastures pall on us; why possessions exhaust us, and why Pascal’s imaginary man found his comfortable lodgings in a prison.”
Songlines, Bruce Chatwin

“The heavens themselves run continually round, the sun rises and sets, the moon increaseth, stars and planets keep their constant motions, the air is still tossed by the winds, the waters ebb and flow… to teach us that we should ever be in motion.”
The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton

Our nature lies in movement. Complete calm is death.” Pensées, Pascal

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: everyday I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts and know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from… The more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill… Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” 
Kierkegaard

 

But know that you can keep walking in the place where you rest.  Because, wherever we go, we carry ourselves with us. So whatever the reason is that we wander, we better learn to like what we had back home, as there’s no way we’ll avoid it wherever we end up wandering to.

Further Life Advice, From Calvin & Hobbes

Poor wee existential Calvin. Asking the same question that ended my last post: What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Have we made the most of these precious few footsteps? Iterations of this big question has been running rings in my mind lately. Far more from curiosity than despair. It is, after all, the nature of yoga & yogis to seek, to be the eternal seeker (Siddharta is fresh in my mind still). Searching for meaning and offering advice on how to live life well are hella popular in this new century and amongst the minds of Gen X, Y and Z. Life advice blogs from the likes of Mark Manson, philosophical articles from Brain Pickings, endless peppy "live your dream" pop-blog posts from Elite Daily fill our feeds. Subliminal messaging gets through and I'm sure I'm not the only one left pondering the big questions, the millions of small questions, and wondering if I am leading life in the best, most creative, fulfilling, kind, loving, spontaneous, productive, carefree, organised way. It's not so much finding any purpose, but making sure the purpose I settle on and commit my creative energy to is a good one.

I already twigged on something last month. Take away my job, my home, my homeland, and familiar faces of friends, and it becomes a lot harder to pin yourself down to something, to grasp and grapple with something that could define who you are and, as a result of knowing these, why you are. It's tricky. It's hard work. It's perplexing. Sometimes I want to give up. On those days I just read a good book. But on the other days, I read articles and gather up as much advice as I can from different sources: philosophers, psychologists, friends, strangers in cafés. Piecing it all together is the fun part. And I hope not self-indulgent. But writing tends to help make sense of it all. Right now, I am mainly re-write the words of others.
 

"You may be surprised to find how quickly daily routine and the demands of “just getting by” absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your politics and religion become matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people’s expectations rather than issues. I tell you all this because it’s worth recognising that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few."
Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes Creator
 
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
 

I love it when great minds somehow meet and overlap with their words.

There's comfort in the words of others, that suggest the author too experienced the same thoughts as you. And that others read them and may find mutual comfort  and increase the circle of those who know how you feel. So I write openly about my musings knowing some friends have the same perplexities on autorepeat, and to bring the comfort of "me too" to anyone that might read this with the dizzy confusion of figuring out those next steps. I doubt anyone goes from Here to There without that internal spaghetti junction rush hour traffic jam where you took a wrong turn and your GPS lost signal, twice. Just not many people explore or express the messy bit in the middle. 

So where am I at right now? I'm being curious about almost everything. I'm engaging in conversations I have not often had due to ignorance or feeling out of my depth: politics, shaping the world from where it's really at not where we're told it's at. I'm studying again: new skills, like graphic design, and new knowledge; anthropology, post-colonial issues. I'm stoking fires I've already had burning: women's rights, being honest about mental health issues and figuring out how I can help, human trafficking, human rights. I'm waking up my long-time dormant writer's brain. I'm creating new habits. I'm exploring a new city. And I'm in Bangalore again. It's a good vantage point for all these things.

 

A Collection of Words on Seeking & Purpose

If I were a collector of anything, I would be a collector of words. Other people's and my own. Cataloguing them neatly by category, or the moment in time I read them, or the reason I was so drawn to them. Well, this is something that is already done, of course: dictionaries hold all meanings but lack emotion, thesauruses expand and introduce new words like a play park of potential, books of quotations hold inspiration, anthologies expanding greater horizons containing whole narratives.

In my mind's eye, however, it is a more organic, living, breathing collection. Recording the words on first reading, my impressions and thoughts, the mark they make on me; only to be revisited later and a new meaning deciphered. A body of work.

Here, then, are some words I have read recently that have inspired me, guided me, and grounded me in my wanderings.

" 'When someone is seeking,' said Siddhartha, 'it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal... What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.' "
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
 
"He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."
Nietzsche, quoted by Victor Frankl  in Man's Search for Meaning,
in reflecting upon his time in a Nazi Concentration Camp
 
"We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for the individual."
Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
 
"By declaring that man is responsible and must actualise the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic "the self-transcendence of human existence."... The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love - the more human he is and he more he actualises himself. In other words, self-actualisation is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence."
Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
 
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life
?
Mary Oliver, from "The Summer Day"

January's Whereabouts

I'm in Bangalore right now. It's a cool city. It's a busy city, and traffic is a nightmare and reminds me of why I never moved to London, but it's cool. There's a craft microbrewery and a yoga café within a stone's throw from where I'm staying. There's the buzz and hum of an energised start-up scene, with tech and social change high on the agenda. People are friendly, you can show your shoulders and hold hands with a loved one in public and drink cocktails with real liquor, and in some ways it reminds me of home whilst in others it reminds me how far from home I am.

On Sunday, I went to a the most sweet yoga flow in Cubbon Park under tree 695 hosted by Yoga Matters and Kiki. On Sunday, a friend back home in Edinburgh gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. On Sunday, David Bowie died.   Today, on Tuesday, I'm considering my whereabouts and about where I am.

I'll admit, I am sometimes confused by mass outpourings of grief for a celebrity that often happens after someone well-known has passed away. Not because I don't believe they deserve to be mourned. But more because everyone deserves to be mourned and often I find one celebrity's passing overshadows the many births and deaths that occur on a daily basis. But also because often everyone jumps on the bandwagon of "I'm sad, a great loss" when until the moment of this person's passing, there was no apparent care or real attachment to said actor / musician / public figure. The advent of social media has made public mourning fashionable, which in turn can make it seem a little false or fabricated for the sake of fitting in. (Not to say that it is false, but this is the impression the mass mourning gives).

However I realised, after paying attention to the many outpourings of grief and bemoaning the passing of Bowie that he did really have an affect on a great many people's lives; the way in which music can be written and produced, the way in which an individual can express themselves both physically and in what they say about themselves. He served as a huge inspiration to generations of musicians, artists, and individuals trying to find their voice and self-expression. The overwhelming outpouring of grief at his death makes sense to me. A moment of 'what would the world have been like had David Bowie not been born' made me realise it would have been very different, and lacking a lot of sparkle.

And so, when I read this quote that was floating around the internet amongst the many posts showcasing the beauty of his life at the moment of his death, it made sense to me in my current whereabouts:

I don't know where I'm going but I promise it won't be boring.

That quote makes perfect sense in life, as well as in death. No one knows what lies beyond the veil, and no one knows what lies ahead in the next day, week or month. Not really. 

Leaving a much-loved job and a wonderful city I call home was very much an outward expression of embracing that unknown. Two months and twelve days in to these travels, and I can now say pretty confidently "I have no fucking idea what I'm doing." It feels good to say it out loud.

I had a job I loved, friends I still hold so dear, in a city I was quite enamoured with. It could be said at that point I did know what I was doing, and in one way I did. But I outgrew certain elements, had a relentless urge for going, and underneath the elements lining up nicely for a life lived with purpose, I didn't really know what I was doing. Case in point: take away the job, the friends, the city, and I don't know what I'm doing. And that's ok.

Accepting that, and even attempting to embrace it, is what's allowing me to be here and begin conversations with others and myself I probably wouldn't have otherwise. None of us can really know what's coming next. Even if we line up all the pieces nicely, something outwith our control can change it all in an instant. Like a birth, or a death. Or a flood. Or international politics, like border control and immigration laws. Life as it plays out is beyond our control, so make the most of what you can do and be prepared for anything.

I get the feeling I'm not the only person who has no idea what they're doing. Yet culturally we all feel the need to pretend that we do, to make-believe and live out that fairytale we've spun to fit in. If you’re open and vulnerable and speak out about not knowing, you invite in far more opportunities for growth and change than you would if you just said you had it together, everything was fine, and you’re not looking to change a single thing. How will things change if you act like you want nothing to change, when underneath you’re craving the new and unknown? So here I am, admitting that 10 years after a successful University education, a successful career in entrepreneurial education, working for a San Francisco start-up and starting-it-up in Edinburgh myself, after all those things that can be called success, and appearing to know what I was doing, I'm hitting reset and figuring it all out again. Except I'm not starting over, because I have those 10 years of work experience, life experience, friends and contacts behind me. I'm so grateful for them all.

So, I really don't know where I'm going next. I have an idea of what I don't want to do, and an idea about the things I would like to do. The fun part is figuring out how to fit them all together.

First on my list is seeking out inspiration. Travel brings new horizons and faces and people with their own stories everyday. The internet brings new blogs and articles and journals and TEDtalks. My kindle brings me new words and worlds to explore. And I've told myself if all I manage to do in January is read and write every day, get on my yoga mat and breathe and move, and keep in touch with the friends I hold dear, then I'll consider it a success for myself. I have no idea what February holds, but what's the use in worrying or planning until January has blossomed in the way I hope it might, but with the curiosity of not knowing what else might come up in the meantime.

It's January, I'm in Bangalore, and I'm in the process of discovering more things about myself and who I could be and who others are and what this world is and how I could fit into it in some meaningful way that can make a difference. That's my whereabouts, in the midst of my walkabout. Sending love from here to wherever you are x

Bits & Pieces // Inspiration

Alok Vaid-Menon's TED Talk We Are Nothing (And That Is Beautiful) which not only includes a sublime spoken word performance, but why it's ok to fail and why we should embrace failure in a system that defined success for us without giving us the choice to decide if that's what we want.

The key to changing the world is to find a way to fail to live up to its expectations.

Brené Brown's TED Talk The Power of Vunerability which reminded me that it's ok to admit I don't know what I'm doing and to open that conversation so that I can invite in more meaningful connection and communication, that might lead me closer to knowing (for a while, at least).

Mark Manson's blog on 10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s which reassured me that no one has any idea what they're doing, and that's ok. The fun of life is figuring it out as you go, into every decade of your life.

“Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and socially — you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it. Stop assuming you can plan far ahead, stop obsessing about what is happening right now because it will change anyway, and get over the control issue about your life’s direction. Fortunately, because this is true, you can take even more chances and not lose anything; you cannot lose what you never had. Besides, most feelings of loss are in your mind anyway – few matter in the long term.”

Here's to failing and figuring out where you might be tomorrow.