I'm two weeks into a road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. In my two months here leading up to it, I've been dedicated to reading, writing, and The Living Theory, but the past two weeks I've tried to do the total opposite—to just let go.
I'm naturally an organized, stick-to-the-plan kind of guy. But in the name of adventure and bending against my nature, I've let go of structure, plans, and literary ambitions for a bit. Not just for a break from a year-round focus on doing what I love, but to allow myself to drift in an unusual direction and see what I might discover. Instead of steering, I'm just enjoying the ride for a while.
Maybe once a month, or even less frequently, I have these moments. Moments that last anywhere from five minutes to an hour. They're sublime moments—moments of elation, verging on ecstasy. Moments when I find myself utterly moved by my surroundings or by an experience.
I had one of these moments today.
Rain was falling all day and after spending one too many hours inside, I needed to escape. I grabbed headphones, pulled my rain coat on, and stepped out into the cool, heavy air of late afternoon. Grey clouds hung overhead and as the Interstellar Soundtrack eased into my ears, I walked west out of a small New Zealand town into farmland and pastures.
I don't know anyone who thinks there's too much time in a day. It's rare that we accomplish everything we hoped to. We begin the day with great intentions but, come the end of it, finish with tasks we intended to but didn't reach.
The problem is that the tasks we don't get to are often the most important ones. We don't hesitate to begin what's urgent or easy, which often leads to putting off the more difficult and important things later in our day.
As a writer, my hardest task to accomplish is, paradoxically, writing. For me, writing is difficult, deliberate work. When I think about beginning, everything else on my "to-do list" becomes very attractive. I spent months relying on sheer discipline to write for The Living Theory, until eventually discovering something much more effective: eliminating less important ways I spend my time.
If you were me a few years ago, this would be the best page on the internet you've ever landed on. It's a list of people and websites that have had the greatest impact on me, with links to the pages I've found most profound or taken the most from.
There's a lot here—if you're into it, bookmarking this page might be a good idea.
Without further ado, my 12 favorite people and websites on the internet:
When you get away from it, it's easy to forget. And as long as you're away from it, you can never remember. But when you return—ah, when you return to it!—once again the truth is as clear as day and greets you as if you'd never left.
I landed in Christchurch, New Zealand last night. And I'm now sitting on a bus, winding through green valleys and rolling countryside dotted with countless sheep. After time away from nature, bathed in advertising, money, and status, such things tend to infect one's thoughts. Remarkably, though, I'm an hour into this bus ride and my compass has already realigned to true north. Take away the television, advertisements, and social proof of collective priorities held by those with constant exposure to such an environment and replace them with lush green, fresh air, and places that beckon to be explored, and the mental poisons of a consumer society quickly denature.
Life is full of paradoxes. One of them is that only when we don't have something do we truly appreciate its value.
A few examples:
When we’re sick, just being healthy is a cause for joy.
Only when we lose someone do we fully understand how much they meant to us.
If we sleep on the ground for a week, returning to bed is like floating on a cloud.
The absence of something reveals its value. And the opposite is also true: having something causes us to lose sight of its value. Following this train of thought, if we have everything all the time, then we can appreciate nothing. And contrarily, if we have nothing, then we can appreciate everything.
This is my second annual review, a sort of yearly glance at the map to better understand where I've been and where I'm going. Looking back at last year's review, it seems I hit seven of the eleven goals I set for 2016, which I'm quite happy about. If I'd fulfilled all of them, I think that would mean the bar was set too low.
This post is a bit more of a plot summary of my life, rather than lessons or ideas taken from it that I usually share. However, I tend to enjoy a bit of background information on who writes the things I read. If you do too, read on.
I met Steve “Boomer” Santistevan because, like him, my life was saved by the staff of Phoenix Children's Hospital. I had an infection of the fluid surrounding my brain and spine, causing a brain-damaging stroke. Boomer had a brain tumor that was supposed to be the end of him. Yet, there we were—still breathing and more alive than ever before. We were the embodiment of the best possible outcomes of our afflictions. I woke up from a coma and made a full recovery. Boomer defied death, miraculously navigating the narrowest path of survival through dozens of brain surgeries.
Hanging onto the fringes of life and peering over the edge changed us. For us both, life was no longer a struggle, but a gift. We knew there was no such thing as the "daily grind." Every day was a miracle. And anyone who might disagree just didn't understand.
We also found purpose in giving back to the non-profit children's hospital that saved our lives. I chose to ride a bicycle across the United States as a fundraiser. Boomer ran marathons, walked, and participated yearly in the Ignite Hope Candlelight Walk at the hospital, a moving experience I regret not sharing with him.