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Can’t See the Open Road

Mellow is the man who knows what he’s been missing
Many, many men can’t see the open road
— Led Zeppelin, Over the Hills and Far Away

Huddled in a group at an Irish pub, four men scheming for the future: one free of obligations and ready to roam, one surfing the peak of his career and working to cash in before it crashes, one just riding the swell and hoping this time—this time— he’d caught the right wave, and me, a would-be writer and wanderer observing the human condition. I’m surfing my own wave, of course, but don’t we all dream of coming about, hoisting the main and sailing away instead?

We labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think. Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

Nowadays we can all see what we’ve been missing in YouTube videos, Instagram and Facebook posts, or wherever you choose to live vicariously through the lens of others. My own favorite footage often involves drones flying above stunning landscapes, as if I were flying myself. And don’t we all wish to fly?

But the question is, do we wish to fly away from something or towards something? For life is short and we can’t waste our precious time running away from ourselves. Yet so many do, in distraction and debauchery and debate. It’s easy to run away, but impossible to really get away from that nagging discontent.

Old friend Henry David Thoreau pointed out that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He would also say that, “So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.”

In other words, life is change, everything is changing around us even as we debate what we ought to do with ourselves. Which brings me back to a constant refrain: We must decide what to be and go be it. And be content with that which we leave behind.

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