“Self-expression is life. What gives more satisfaction to one’s being than to have expressed oneself. One builds a house and expresses himself, another writes a poem and expresses herself, another begets a large family and expresses himself – and looking back, they can say “Vixi”: I have lived.” – from The Gentle Art of Tramping, Stephen Graham
I set off this morning for day 2 of my latest project, which I’m loosely naming the lost art of wandering. My daily routine is a 5am wake up, followed by a couple of hours of reading and thinking. I like early mornings because nobody wants anything from you at 5 o’clock in the morning. No phone, no wife, no demanding kids. Silence. Bliss. The world feels all my own. Once the house crew wakes up, the cacophony of noise makes it nearly impossible to think straight. That’s when I abandon the house to the inmates and head to the gym.
But today, a change in routine – a morning walk to replace the gym. This, of course, is in line with the revelation from yesterday about using walking and wandering as a unifying theme for the blog.
To get myself in the proper frame of mind, I began the morning re-reading Merlin Coverley’s book, The Art of Wandering. Reading is a journey in and of itself. Thoughts collide with thoughts and spark other thoughts, sending one off into different directions, chasing clues to the big puzzle that is us, who we are and what we are about and why.
In this instance, Coverley turned me onto Stephen Graham and his book, The Gentle Art of Tramping. In the first paragraph I read, Graham threw out the challenge for the reader to examine their tacit assumptions about their everyday life.
So that’s the question I took with me on my walk, what are MY tacit assumptions? Kind of a heavy question for a Friday morning, but then I did promise you that this wasn’t going to just be about walking. I struggled with the question for a bit and had to abandon it to the rhythm of the walk.
If walking is indeed a spiritual practice, then I had my first insight within a kilometre of the start. Whenever I begin something new, I feel compelled, first, to buy a bucket-load of books and read up the subject. I’ve bought three books in the space between yesterday, when I decided that walking as a metaphor was a good direction to take for the blog, and today. The second thing I feel compelled to do is create a set of rules and structure and outcomes to the new venture. I want know where it’s all going before I get there, throwing away any notion that it’s about the journey, not the destination. One of my habits of thinking, I discovered, is propensity to attach myself to the outcomes of the venture.
How is that a problem?
Well the moment you attach yourself to the outcome of anything, you give away your power to forces beyond your control, better to focus on the doing and let the results take care of themselves. Something I learned from T.S. Eliot, but as they say, there’s a difference between knowing and doing, and despite knowing this I still get myself caught in the outcome trap. So suddenly, my ideal about walking – getting out, following the flow and the rhythm of the walk wherever it may lead – was getting overshadowed by my craving to know that the outcome would be worth the commitment.
Better to relax and enjoy the walk and whatever happens after that happens.
One of my tacit assumptions is that industrial time, the 9 to 5 shuffle, is right and proper and if i’m living and working counter to that concept, then somehow that equates to being a slacker. Case and point. Instead of being totally in the moment with this walk, I found myself glancing at my watch and hearing that silly little voice in my head crapping on about needing to be inside, behind a desk, shuffling papers to prove I’m working, when in fact my work is being out and doing exactly what I’m doing.
I have to kill my present relationship with time. You would have thought after 10 years of being self-employed, this wouldn’t be an issue anymore, but it is. I guess when your friends and family are towing the party line, it’s easy to feel like I’m some kind of vagrant because I’m not doing the 9 to 5 shuffle every weekday like they are. Especially during times like right now, when I’m in-between contracts and spending large tracts of my day reading and researching, my friends and family think I’m loafing. Not the case at all, but it doesn’t fit the pattern, so people make assumptions. And I feel the pressure to conform. My success, however, depends on doing the opposite.