Do you know the difference between a beach bum and a beachcomber? Purpose. According to my trusty laptop dictionary, a beach bum is defined as a person who loafs on or around a beach. On the other hand, a beachcomber is a person who walks along the beach looking for valuable or interesting items.
Richard Bode falls into the beachcomber category, though instead of walking the beach with a metal detector looking for buried treasures, what he seeks are the truths about life. Bode is the author of Beachcombing at Miramar, The Quest for an Authentic Life, a book now marking its 25th anniversary. It was collecting dust on my bookshelf and thankfully I recently picked it up as it gives life a fresh perspective.
Bode’s story is an interesting one. In the second half of his life, he left an unfulfilling corporate job and an unhappy marriage. He moved across the country into a cottage just off the beach in Northern California. There, he penned a couple of books, spending most days walking up and down the beach. He observed the people and natural world around him, as well as contemplated his own life, most specifically what had worked and what hadn’t.
Beachcombing at Miramar turned out to be Bode’s last book. Alas, just a few years after its publication, he passed away at age 73 while working on another book that was never released. Still, in this book, and a previous one titled First You Have to Row a Little Boat, he passed along the wisdom of a lifetime.
Here are 5 of my favorite passages from Miramar, with life lessons that might apply to us all. I’ve added my own afterthoughts in italics.
5 Keen Insights from a Professional Beachcomber
Not all men are born to be saints, but I believe we are all born with a voice within that we tend to ignore until it becomes so indistinct we barely know it’s there. The voice doesn’t come from an almighty God in the sky; it comes from an in-dwelling God in the soul. We live our best lives when we take the time to listen to our own voice.
Remote rulers, no matter how despotic, generally exert less power over our lives than the ordinary people do, the people we live and work with every day. The latter are present, always present, with their own agendas and their own demands, which can oppress us unless we find the will within ourselves to resist. In the words of Michael Meade from a long ago post, are you “living your own damn life?”
I believe there is a clock within me, a living clock, and it keeps pace with the pulse beat of the world. I hear the slow ticktock of the planet when I stand in a salt marsh or walk the sands of Miramar, and I lose it the instant I slip behind a steering wheel. I lose the tempo of the natural world and become like a singer who has lost the rhythm of his song. I know the feeling; it seems the more I am away from the City, the less I miss it.
The impoverished in spirit have no chance but to bless themselves. We must bless ourselves; there is no other way. If we don’t, there is no telling how far we will go to prove our worthiness. Forgive yourself for any past transgressions, today is a new opportunity to get it right.
I do not have an answer to every question that comes my way; I am confused. To be confused is to be strong. Confusion forces me to assess my situation, to move with care, to evaluate my progress and correct my course as I go along. There is no dogma, no absolute truth for me to fall back on. Sometimes the inner voice knows more than any wise person or book.
Bode often had friends from his days in the corporate world reach out to him and ask when he was going to return to what they thought of as “the real world.” One friend wrote him, “This idleness, this drifting, when will it all end? Where will it all lead?” While walking on the beach, gazing at the waves breaking along the shoreline, he determines that:
I am more sure of my destination than ever before. I am not drifting. I am moving by design, aware of the teeming life about me and the choices I must make-–when to resist, when to accept, when to bide my time.
He has arrived at the truth that his life is the steady and anchored one, that his friends are on the more perilous course:
Those who are not true to their nature, who are driven by forces beyond themselves, they are the drifters of the world. When the winds shift, so must they.