One of the things that I’d heard a lot about before heading south to Antarctica was the opportunity to go swimming in Deception Bay. Yes, you might well wonder why anybody would want to do this. I can’t wait to give it a try. Why? I guess for the same reason that I once jumped into the Colorado River at the base of the Grand Canyon … because it’s an adventure. Will I do it? I’ll let you know when I’m back.
Meanwhile, I’ve been so busy lately – which seems like a contradiction to the fact that I’ve just retired – and I haven’t had much time to read. As I hopefully start to slow myself down a bit I’ve picked up the novel that I was in the mdidle of before retirement-frenzy hit. If you haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s eat, pray, love I’d highly recommend it. By the way, if you’ve got any recommendations for wonderful books to read please send them along as comments; there are going to be lots of quiet reading times in the months ahead I hope and I could use some good tips! So, here’s the notion that I just read about: “… every city has a single word that defines it; that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever the majority thought might be – that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there” (p. 103). The author then goes on to suggest some of “the words” for various cities: for New York the word – according to her – is ACHIEVE; for Los Angeles her identified word is SUCCEED … although I’d think that CONSUME might be a better LA word. Got the jist of the idea?
So now I’ve got to think a number of things through. I live in Toronto. What would the word for Toronto be? Would FESTINATE be accurate? Sure – we’re Canadians so we put a sort of polite spin on whatever word would define us but still … what are we mostly thinking about as we hurry through our days? Maybe what we’re actually thinking about is the hurrying itself and not the destination(s) we’re hurrying to. Not sure. That might explain why the air is so edgy. Ideas?
The tougher thing to think through is what my own, personal word might be … not the word that I might have carried in the past but the word that I want to claim for today. What is it that I mostly want to be thinking about? What thought do I want to hold as the anchor for who I am? Maybe CENTRE or FOCUS. Maybe EQUANIMITY. I’m going to have to give this a lot more thought as it seems like a short-hand identifier. What I’m pretty sure of is that my word, and the word of the place I’m living, aren’t a very good match.
Which brings me to the third thing I need to ponder and that is … if I don’t belong here where do I belong? Do I really need to fit with the city or just with the part of the city that I inhabit? Gilbert concludes that she doesn’t know what her own word is and that’s why she needs a year of journeying. That’s where I end up in thinking about this too; I need to set out – or continue – on my own journey to finding my word. Maybe that means I’ll have to travel more; not just spend a few days here and a few days there but actually set myself down in other places for a while. I’ve been considering spending a month in Dharamsalla, India in meditation. Perhaps I’ll return to China and teach ESL for a few months. Maybe I’ll just have to find a way to do this journeying without leaving home so much.
I’m going to give myself a year to figure this all out. Do you think that will be enough? To start?