Monday, October 20, 2008

Existence vs. Life

There's two ways to look at it....

I love traveling because i love looking down that road where i have never been before, looking out at new things, looking forward to new experiences, new viewpoints, new perspectives. Meeting new people. Looking for new challenges, new goals. New ways to look at life, new ways to see how my existence matters. I love the adrenaline rush of anticipation. I love that slight fear of uncertainty as you approach the impending unknown.

Or, i love traveling because it provides new ways to avoid accepting my life as it is. New ways to distract myself for what is in my life. New ways to ignore that my life isn't working as is. New ways to change the subject.

I do understand this dichotomy, even though it may not seem obvious. As i said in a previous post, the reason i have always been attracted to Mt., fascinated by Mt. because of the obviously inherent challenge of climbing it. Everest represents, for me, the ultimate challenge --- one of the places where you actually put your life on the line, where you accept the ultimate challenge. Some people say it is all about ego, and while i might agree when thinking about before or after the climb, during the climb, i imagine that it is about anything but the ego.

I imagine that during the climb it is about the climb and nothing else. It's not about you and it's not about the mountain. It's the climb, which encompasses you, the mountain, the weather, time, ... everything. For the last half day, or so, it's about nothing less than everything. For a half day, you give up your narrow ego-centric existence for a life that is no bigger or smaller than all of Life itself.

But, i have gotten off track. I started writing because having just trekked to Everest Base Camp made me stop and think. It was a fascinating trip. Everything, and more, than i expected. But, when it was over and the time came to go back to work, my guts revolted. Everything in my body cried No, don't do it.

I gave my notice at work on Friday. It's time to admit that i have already died but have refused to admit it. I had sold my soul for a good salary and 5 weeks vacation each year. Even though i commute back and forth to the office each day, and therefore *look* to be among the living, i am no longer alive between vacations.

The short way to say this is that life is too short. The longer version is that you never know when it's going to be over and until that day, it's a crime to spend your time doing something you don't enjoy. Or worse. What matters isn't how much money you make each year or how many weeks of vacation you get. What matters is how much you LIVE. How alive you are each day. As i have probably said a hundred times in other writings, there is a universe of difference between "existing" and "living," and i have been doing a whole lot of the former, and very little of the later these past few years.

Shakespeare had it right --- "To be or not to be, that is the question." That's really the only question for people like me. Are you alive in the fullest sense of the word, or aren't you? That is the question i ask myself each and every morning when the alarm clock goes off. That's the question everyone should ask themselves each and every morning of their lives. If you are, good for you. If you aren't, shouldn't you do something about it?

"Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them." No, of course i'm not advocating taking up arms and putting an end to my sea of troubles, but i am arguing that sooner or later one must accept it when your fortune is outrageous as is and oppose it. Is it nobler to simply take a deep breath every time another wave crashes over your head and continue to ride out the storms in the wild hopes that sooner or later "fortune" will somehow, someway, wash you close enough to shore that you can scramble to safety? Or, is it nobler to take arms and oppose that fortune?

I have traveled a lot in this life. My guess is that i have traveled a lot in all of my lives. I have seen a lot. Done a lot. More than most people. And for that reason, many people say i have led a blessed life. I would agree, i suppose, but when the sun sets tomorrow, will my life be better served knowing that i go to bed with health insurance and a growing savings account, or knowing that even though i don't have either of those, at least i lived for 24 hours without selling my soul.