Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Bearded Lady and The Lion Tamer never knew they had so much in common.

The nature of human relations interests me. It seems we all find ourselves at some point, drifting through life looking for someone to relate to on some kind of intelligent level – about something, about anything. Whether we're talking about the latest movie, our hobbies, our jobs, our music, our anguish or our love, we all want someone to listen and to understand what we mean. Sometimes we find them, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we stop searching momentarily and sit back and relax in the wonder of the world around us, hoping that just around the next bend, someone will understand what we're talking about.

As many of you know I recently had the chance to take a ten day trip down the west coast in my van alone. When I hit the road in Washington I had no expectations of the trip, no expectations of what I would see, no expectations of people I'd meet, if anyone. My only small expectation was that I expected the van to run well; and for the most part it did, it likes traveling too. 

Now, from the people I've talked to, not everyone likes to spend days and hours alone. Some people don't mind, others get lonely and would rather have someone to talk to, others just get bored. And yet others, like myself, are willing to sacrifice the hours of solitude for the chance to explore new roads, the chance to seek out places that I may have missed before, the chance to adventure, the chance to meet new people.

Some people have an aversion to making new acquaintances. I could see it in the eyes of the people I would meet passing through little towns, at gas stations, at grocery stores; the distrust in their eyes preventing them from saying too much. After all, you wouldn't want to expend too much energy on a stranger whom you'll never see again now would you?

Sadly many people feel this way, instead of realizing that we are all living on the same planet, all for an exaggeratedly short period of time, all walking around bumping into each other. It seems we'd all be in agreement that acquaintances are agreeable to have, friends are fantastic to keep and that strangers present an opportunity to have either. They present an opportunity to connect with someone on a level, any level, that both can see eye to eye about, an opportunity to learn someone's name, an opportunity to share, an opportunity to create a relationship, short-lived as it may be, and an opportunity to leave a smile on someone's face.  

Relationships may seem complicated but let's not forget the root of that word, relate. That simply, is what it's all about, relating, relating to one another. Whether you're talking about the price of gas with a station attendant, asking someone for directions out of town, or taking a walk with your spouse of twenty-five years, one of life's greatest rewards are relationships, our exclusively human ability to relate to one another on many levels and about many things. Things that bring us joy. So the next time you catch a stranger's glance, driving or strolling past, shoot them a smile or a wave. They may not return the favor, but they may not forget it either.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Traveling circus

We spend alot of time waiting.  We wait for the coffee to brew.  We wait at stoplights.  We wait for our computers.  We wait for test results.  We wait for the mail, the check, the phonecall, the weather, the dinnerguests, the pizza, the battery to charge, the movie to start.  These are the often mundane but necessary things we wait for that occupy our everyday lives, things that make our life a little bit better in their own way.  These are things worth waiting for, otherwise we wouldn't be waiting for them in the first place. But how many other things in life do we wait for and not even realize?

I'm in the loft at my sister's house in central Oregon.  Stop one on a ten day journey down the west coast.  I waited today.  My bus broke down this morning and after spending the entire day underneath, inside and around a rear engine compartment, I finally broke down and sought a mechanic.  That's when I waited.  I waited for the news that the parts wouldn't be in until next week.  Waited to hear that my vacation would be cancelled before it even had the chance to begin.  I waited to hear that it would cost three times more than I expected.  Then the call came.  It was fixed.  Forty bucks, forty minutes and a firm handshake later I was driving away, smiling and knowing that my trip could continue as planned.  The trip that I had waited so long for.

As I see it, traveling is a matter of waiting even though you're actually doing something.  Traveling is accomplished in one of two ways.  The first way is to get there.  You know where you're going, have a specific reason to go there and want to get the traveling over with as soon as possible.  The second occupies a different methodology.  You know where you're going but you also know that you'll get there soon enough.  And you know that whatever is waiting for you at your destination doesn't know exactly when you left, doesn't know your exact route, will be there when you get there and may not exactly holding their breath for you to arrive.  But they are nontheless, waiting.  

Getting where we're going is always a journey, whether we're making the trip in our car, an airplane or just in our own mind.  Though we may be driving, reading, riding, talking, hoping or dreaming, we are all invariably waiting at some point.  Maybe waiting for life to take us to where we want to be, maybe waiting for the chips to fall where they may, maybe waiting for the dominoes to fall in line, maybe waiting for something specific, maybe waiting for our coffee.  We all hate to wait, but sometimes waiting is worth it.  Some things are just worth waiting for.