I'm back. Gone for two weeks to Home in the desert. Was it good? Wonderful. Actually, that is an understatement. This year begins a long transition, a year of change. At least it isn't an abrupt one; had too many of those. Near the end of the year, I will leave academia, perhaps for good, but not leave science; it's too much a part of me. I will be leaving this area as well to begin a new chapter elsewhere; perhaps that should be plural. Is 'elsewheres' a legitimate word? No, but who cares?
After I leave this area and before I move to the desert, a long walkabout will be in order; rather, a rideabout. Time to visit family in New England area. First time for me on a motorcycle.
Hence, I dub this year as the Year of the Walkabout
. Why? The answer is in the post below, written in 2006 on my other blog, Whose Reality is This?
Time for a Walkabout
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling. – Robert Pirsig*
Every so often we need a change. We become so caught up in our own small box of existence, hurrying most of our time away, losing grasp of what is important to each and all of us. We repeat the same day-to-day routine, a monotony that becomes shallow yet comfortable for most. It’s as if we become robots on automatic pilot. Then at some point in our lives we wonder where all that time went and sorry that it is all gone. We can’t go back to regain it.
Familiarity is comfort to most; it is ‘safe’, reassuring and relatively risk-free. We tend to shy away from risk and strangeness. Yet the world is full of wonderful strangeness. And what makes this world so hard to see is its usualness. Familiarity can blind you, too.
We accumulate new information and experiences every day; sometimes it is overwhelming. Our perspective tends to become more narrow and smaller housed inside our little box of comfort. We become the center of the cosmos and familiarity shrink wraps us inside the nucleus of our own ego. Our ‘I’ is a small parasitic microbe that only moves to provide for our immediate physiological and psychological needs. In time we become bored with our own little box and find ways to fill the empty spaces as we implode inside ourselves. We become disconnected with others and our environment until the robot is nudged out of autopilot. And malfunctions. We become dehumanized.
Robert Pirsig wrote*:
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame…… On a cycle the frame is gone. You are completely in contact with it all. You are ‘in’ the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.
Metaphorically our lives become like the compartment of a car: the passive observer, too busy to talk to each other, passing life by outside without really touching it, experiencing it. By the time we stop to look back and wonder where it went, it’s too late. This is a dead end.
The Australian adolescent aborigines (and many other indigenous peoples) go walkabout for weeks or months as a rite of passage. I often refer to go walkabout when I travel without a planned itinerary or even destination. It is all about the journey, not the destination.
When the spirit falters, when we find ourselves questioning, confused, or need to break the cycle of familiarity, go on a walkabout. At times I use a walkabout to break the distractions of my ‘box’ of life, or when life throws me a curve ball that hits me square in the heart. Sometimes the surroundings of silence and space allow me to hold and direct the construction of my thoughts. Other times it is the strangeness of the environment and the people that break down the walls of my box and allow me to expand outside again, refreshing my perspective.
Invariably, walkabouts give me the clearness and fortitude to open the door when Truth comes knocking.
* Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. By Robert Pirsig.