THIS IS AN ESSAY ABOUT JOURNEY. Let’s start here.
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” — Albert Einstein
Let me tell you of a journey of two months and 6,000 miles; on a Vespa 150cc Scooter. A few years ago, I bought a Vespa. I called the moment a “mid-life crisis”. My Amazing-Missus said, “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re way past mid-life.” Nonetheless it was a courageous and/or stupid decision.
The long, 6,000 mile Vespa journey I’m talking about here was taken not by me, but by a young lady named Shreve Stockton. I came across her blog, Vespa Vagabond, about her adventure when researching my own Vespa decision, and I’ve been reading her blog ever since.
In a recent post, she was talking about our desire for safety and security and remembering her Vespa ride:
“The illusion of safety” is a concept my aunt and I came up with right before my cross-country Vespa ride. I did not have room to bring a tent. And I didn’t want to bring mace because I didn’t know how the pressurized canister would handle the extreme heat and elevation changes of my ride (I didn’t want it to explode on me). And my aunt and I came to realize that “tent” and “mace” do not guarantee safety, or even do much to mitigate potential harm the way my helmet and leathers did. And even my helmet and leathers didn’t guarantee my safety. We want guarantees so badly and we just don’t get them. Perhaps a better term is “the illusion of control.” The ancient Greeks called it the “caprice of the Gods,” and built their entire mythology around it. I have an IRA and I wear my seat belt and I recommend both, but they don’t guarantee anything.
I like to think of our little Airstream venture as a Journey; a journey made up of small, individual journeys, adventures, and stories. Although we’ve had the trailer only a few weeks now, the Journey started years ago with the idea, the looking, the cost-counting, the dreaming of it all. Along the way, people have asked lot’s of questions. Here are some of the most frequent: Can we have a look inside? How do you sleep in that tiny bed? How do you shower in that tiny shower? How do you keep the toliet paper from getting wet? (This Bambi model has a “wet-bath” meaning the shower and the toliet are in one little space.) It’s a legitimate question.
Here are the answers: Yes, you may. Very well actually. It’s not too bad really. There’s a curtain that pulls across and blocks the water.
Another question I’m asked frequently, which really surprised me: “You do have a gun in that trailer with you, don’t you?” Here’s the answer: No. I’m assuming these people have answered Einstein’s dilema with “I believe we live in a hostile environment.”
I’m actually more frightened that lightening might strike. Is a little aluminum bubble where you really want to be in a lightening storm? I also worry that the big motorhome with all the slideouts up the hill will come unmoored in the night, bump our little Bambi and send her careening off a cliff with us inside. Obviously my nightmares are far more creative than some bad guy trying to break in and steal our peanut butter and jelly then shoot us.
“Oh, you should carry a gun!” they say. And I say, do you realize we have FIVE little Grand-Girls that play in this Bambi. If one of them were to find that gun… I can’t even verbalize the rest of that story.
Put me in the naive, “the universe is still friendly enough to survive” camp.
Maybe to Shreve’s point, a better question for Einstein to have pondered is: can we live with the “illusion of safety” to the point that we’re willing to risk all to go on the journey?
If you are married, remember your wedding day? The sweaty palms, the butterflies, the pounding heart. Remember the birth of your first child? Every news headline makes you wonder if you really should be bringing a child into this mess. Will they be okay?
If we truly could count the cost… Maybe we wouldn’t go. Fortunately, God somehow whispers to us through the beautiful stories of those who have gone on the journey before us, He gives us this inexplicable love that invites us to go on this journey for life. AND WE DO IT! Some of us take a metaphorical gun (just in case), some of us carry on in ignorant bliss. We learn that there will be pain, there will be scary times, there are no guarantees. And sometimes our toilet paper will get wet. But we go.
Last Friday night, our youngest, Kyle, and his beautiful bride, Brooke, said to the world: Our journey starts here, NOW. We have chosen to believe that the universe is friendly enough and together we move bravely forward. I am betting that these two will show others that the journey is worth it.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of a thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
(from ‘Four Quartets’)