Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fine line between the lost and living...

So I recently ran into a young Gen Y friend (that’s if Gen Y includes 33 year-olds…if not, than he’s Gen How…I guess). In any event, with no real address to speak of, no stack of technical devices (with the exception of his...drum roll...flip phone), no online portfolio of his life's history, with the exception of 6 Facebook posts from 2014, and no one to call “employer,” he has certainly opted for the road less traveled.

However, for the past four years, he has been trekking cross-country and back, via a 1987
Oldsmobile. He has spent most of his time interviewing underground musicians in remote towns “still doing their own thing”. In fact, he's writing a memoir with the hopes of shedding light on what he refers to as “the last remaining musical specimens on earth”. Oh…he’s also taught himself to earn a quick living as a pastry chef, and he’s written and performed more than two dozen country western heartbreakers in five different cities. And needless to say, yes, he’s become a student of auto mechanics.

As he spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder when I’d last plucked at my guitar or how long my passport had been expired. Or if my life depended on it, would I ever be able to even change a tire? His enthusiasm for…more or less, everything…was intoxicating.

His life, in a word, is remarkable.

However, with little warning but a four word text message [How did the interview go?], his light flickered. His glorious notes from the road were punctuated with the most unexpected and tragic sigh I have ever heard. He ran his fingers through his long, outgrown hair and I could practically feel the heat radiating from his cheeks. Then he tucked his flip phone into his back pocket and like a steam train pulling into the station, he completely fizzled out.

I watched as he contrived a one man show of coughs and fidgets--a gesture made, no doubt, in defiance of his sudden self-consciousness. I think he worried that his excitement for his stories had suddenly superseded the content. Like he had said something foolish and regrettable. Like he thought it best to stop talking altogether.

“In other words,” he said, “I’m lost.”

I was baffled, to say the least, but, I was also growing numb with disappointment. My mind had been racing along the terrain of the adventurous undiscovered, right along with him, goose bump after goose bump…only to be abruptly shifted back into neutral. Truthfully, he broke my heart a little.

We said our goodbyes, but the conversation continued…for me at least. In fact it gnawed at me for days. I was so very frustrated, so sad. You might even say I was “weepy". Hm. Why didn’t he see in himself, what I saw? He had no idea that he was more passionate about the very vein of existence than anyone I’ve met in three decades; that he embodied the curiosity of the universe; that he was more open for business than the NASDAQ; that he had found purpose; that he was among the very lucky few that are not just existing, but really living.

Did it bother me that this gifted and kindhearted soul, who lifted my spirits and hijacked my heart, did in fact, seem a bit lost? No. It bothered me that he thought being lost was a bad thing.

It seems the formalities of our world have left very little room for the informalities of the dreamers; the artists; the philosophers…those whose curiosity about the world is so intense, it is their very life force. So I ask, when did this happen? When did an insanely enthusiastic hunger for a connection to the world; a yearning to discover with both the heart and the mind; to stop, pull back the lens and expose the view; to have the guts and grit to walk straight down the open road…get tossed in the land of lost?

What if John Muir called it quits. Yep...just said, "ok that's enough, time to get a real job." Then turned around and went home because he lost his way in a canyon while fighting for the preservation of beauty; of life; of the earth. Would Yosemite Valley be the Yosemite Mall of the Valley? And, Charles Shultz, my favorite lost “underdog” of all time - what if actually listened when he was told that because he was poor at sports and got record-breaking low grades, he would never amount to anything; when Disney flat out rejected his illustrations. In the book The Other 90%, Robert K. Cooper states,"He (meaning Shultz) resigned himself to the bottom run of mediocrity, or worse. But, against all doubters, he believed in his heart that he had one natural streak of genius or talent: drawing". What if he actually accepted his "lost-loser" label and stopped searching for his gift to the world...his genius? Charlie Brown may just be another kid with a block head that no one ever even knew existed. And, an estimated 350 million readers would be denied the most unlikely champion of all time.

Heck, what if we’d shoved Bruce Springsteen under the boardwalk, told him he was lost, and made him go find something else to do. Something tame and neat and respectable by the folks who were all settled-in.

"Bruce I know you like playing the guitar and all, but you seem lost. You know Radio Shack is looking for a floor manager. They have great benefits, and a predictable career path. No surprises. Maybe you’ll find yourself there. “ Would he have then made the great lyrical misstep that would have robbed three generations of The Boss? (Tramps like, we were born to work at Radio Shack?)

You see, to these folks, life is an open door. And, they don’t close it and call it a home …they move through it and they find the world. They follow an innate drive to question and, to our great benefit, they still find being human a worthwhile experience to explore. They have a language all their own; they make it up as they go. They find wonder in a disconnected world suffocating on its own principles. They don’t seek to find where they’ve been, they seek to find what they have never known. And yes sometimes they get lost. Why?

Because, my friends, they dared to take the journey.