May 8, 2005
I went to Lake DeRuyter to not live life to the fullest, but to slow it down. Life is already full. We see it in the passing cars, passing people, hours, days. But I already know life is full, we just don’t have time to see it. I went to the country to slow down life and see what is to be seen when it is not passing by in a blur.
Common pleasures are wonderful. The ability to communicate around the world in seconds, to see the trials of others from the safety of your house, to be well informed, up to date, in the know is a modern day necessity. But to arise each morn, know nothing of yesterday and to expect nothing of today but what you can make of it, is truly a gift. To live in a world away from time where life spins slower, where we can see and feel the earth growing under us.
But I left not just to escape the city life, or find a simple one, but to hear the sound of happiness in its rawest form. I hear it in the morning in the lapping of waves, the murmur of ducks upon the lake covered in a light sheet of grey mist. It is breathing, the up and down of a boat resting on the pure cold water. Like a child on his father’s chest, the boat sits rising, a breath in, falling, a breath out. Continuously it does this day after day, year after year. Yet it is not only on small lakes where you see this life. I have seen it in muddy streets, heard it in deafening cities and felt it at the top of the Empire State Building. The city’s constant moan, its outcry, and the red lights of the cars are the blood cells flowing through the city’s veins. Though it never walks or breaks a bone, it is more like us than we know. It feels the pain of loss, the joy in a new day, the sheer childish glee in a hard warm rain.
An analogy for my purpose in self-confinement has come to me. It is like when you are a child going to your room not to escape others but to be in solitude and solidarity with yourself. Others might ask why you are leaving. It is not as much that you are leaving them but going to yourself; you are not as much shying away from the world around you as you are looking for the world within your own mind. The reason a person gets lost in thought is because it is such a vast maze. You can spend hours, days, years searching your mind for nothing of any value, but finding priceless treasures along the way. The same is true outside of the mind where the way in which you go tells more about you then your destination. A person can never be happy, no matter how isolated from civilization they are, if the person is not ready to see the beauty in the place they are standing now.
When a dragonfly is born, it immediately looks for a warm sunny spot to dry. The dragonfly, soaking wet after breaking out of its shell, will stay in its warm sunny spot until it feels sufficiently dry and ready to go. No matter how you pressure the young drake it will not budge until it is ready. Yet when the young dragonfly is ready, he spreads his wings and speeds off without looking back. The same applies for people. We all at one point in our lives break out of our own shells feeling wet. No matter what outside forces try to speed us up, in the end our progression is our own and only we can decide when to move on. Nevertheless, like the dragonfly once we are ready we leave and are gone without a second thought on the subject.
The Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu, speaks of the idea that winning 100 out of 100 battles is not most skillful, but to win without fighting is true victory. To understand this to the fullest you need to see this at many levels. For example, sitting on a stump you see ants time after time go to war receiving causalities left and right, and yet the walking stick fights not at all and thus more the happier she is for she has not had to sustain causalities in her peaceful being. This idea can easily be applied to modern being. We are fighting constantly for happiness knowing we are only happy in peace. It is also when lying on the wet grass staring up at the night sky when you understand your unimportance in your universe, but in the universe of the insect at your feet you have the ability to give or take life. To be able to see power and weakness in the same example is a true gift.
By sitting on a dock watching the sun set you can understand more about life than you could learn in all the world’s encyclopedias put together. If you wish for knowledge, then speak to a stranger on the street. If you wish for love, then give it full tilt and it will come back double. And if power is what you wish for, then listen not to me, for my rules of life are nothing but ropes tying your vessel of opportunity to shore. Cast off your ropes and chains and sail into the world happy and free.
I left not to be lost from civilization but to be found by myself.