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Living Into Focus: Read An Excerpt
• watching television
• spending time online
• being cut off from nature
• not having enough friendships
• living out of sync with natural and biological rhythms
• insufficient sleep
• feeling distracted
No wonder so many people pursue better living through pharmaceuticals.
Something's not working. "Labor-saving" devices make us busier. The faster computers go, the more time we give to them. As highways and cars improve, we drive farther and vehicles become increasingly expensive. Email speeds communications but eats up greater amounts of time. With the ongoing invention of "essential" devices (even energy efficient ones), we consume growing quantities of power. I don't know about your house, but we have power strips in numerous rooms; wall outlets no longer suffice.
It's a wonder, then, that there's not an epidemic of sleepwalking these days. Or perhaps there is. Many of us sense that there's something fundamentally awry with our pace of life. Yet we don't know what choice we have or how to make a change or whether we can do anything. We impotently go through days filled with situations and circumstances and demands that feel as though they're taking us off course, leaving us unbalanced, throwing our lives off kilter. But we are as ineffective at bringing change as I was in trying to get my parents to allow me to wander the night air in my sleep. Too much of our lives are fragmented and frantic, leaving us frustrated.
Those formerly popular bumper stickers—"I'd rather be [sailing, fishing, quilting, gardening]"—were a forlorn cry for lost and displaced priorities. Putting those notices on cars made sense, as driving is a primary culprit in refashioning our lives in unhelpful ways, taking time and opportunities away from our highest and most rewarding commitments.
Pilgrims and Seekers Looking for Something More
Decades after my sleepwalking episodes, another kind of walking helped me see with a little more clarity and deeper understanding some of the issues that face all of us.
I once walked five hundred miles to attend a church service.2 I am hardly the kind of guy that one might envision going on such a long, arduous journey. After all, for most of my life I loathed athletics. In high school I dropped phys ed as soon as it was no longer mandatory.
I admired Mark Twain's rumored approach: "Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away." But in midlife, I surprised myself by starting to hike and learning the joys of doing so. Within a few years I found myself on the Camino de Santiago, the most famous Christian pilgrimage route for walkers.
My physical achievement of averaging sixteen miles a day for thirty one days was not the most amazing aspect of the venture. Nor was it the fact that I, a Protestant minister, was on a pilgrimage, a practice normally associated with other church streams. Nor was it the unexpected reality that I, a driven, workaholic type, somehow found time for such an inefficient excursion. It was not even the reality that that route is rapidly growing in popularity. What most impressed—and perplexed—me was that many, if not most, of those "pilgrims" profess no religious faith or affiliation at all. I know why I am here, I often thought to myself, as unlikely as that may be. But what, I wondered, are they doing here?