Departures 2/1/2009

It was one of John Travolta’s last lines in his 1996 movie, Phenomenon. It is something that I’ve been thinking of lately, and I find that it’s is one of those ideas that we tend to pass over as human beings in the hubbub of our day to day existence. Travolta’s character, George Mailey, says this in reference to an apple as he tries to teach three children a tidbit about journeys and how they are a part of existence. Travolta asks each child to take a bite out of the apple and, in doing so, they will become a part of that apple’s journey.
There could be strong argument in saying that our civilization is by and large accustomed to comfort and routine. We are pleased when we receive pleasant additions to that routine, but discombobulated, saddened or angered when that routine dismembers or when fractions of that routine are no longer present. It is at that point that change has occurred and, it is largely because of our social programming (‘brainwashing’ seems more apropos), we are insecure as we don’t have all of our pieces in order.
In that sense, we are all hoarders of our own pleasures. We want our pleasures to stay with us at all times, id est a mother and father always want to know where their children are, a drill sergeant always wants to know where his recruits are and what they are doing, the owner of a comic book shop may walk by a box full of Wonder Woman comic books that have been there for the past seven years, subconsciously, to assure himself that they’re still there. We protect both the animate as well as inanimate bodies that surround us and have surrounded us. We each have a timeline. Within each of us there is a fixed amount of time that, when something or someone has been around us beyond that point, they/it now belongs to our in-group – that group to which we have affixed the label – My Stuff. Perhaps a suitable example of this point would be well-reflected in the relationship that Tom Hanks’ character has with the volleyball (to which he gave the name Wilson) in the movie Cast Away.
On some level, we harbor a social anxiety of what lies in departure. With routine, we know what’s coming, what there is to expect. In departure, there is only the unknown. In many cases, the unknown scares us. It’s the same reason why most would walk into a room that was well-lit than a neighboring room that was shrouded in opacity. We would choose the room with light, because, not unlike moths, we know what we’re getting into (at least we think we do). We judge the future from lessons learned from experiences of the past. If we walk into an illuminated room, we are fairly certain (judging from past experiences in rooms with light) that we’ll be safe. If we walk into the dark room, we have no past lessons from which to learn. We would have to start from scratch – essentially, we may get hurt. There may be an infinite amount of joy in the dark room as well, but we’re safer in the light.
It is because of this, clear evidence, that we have, whether consciously or unconsciously, guided by principles that are only based on light. We have been socially goaded toward avenues of stability because of a well-lit atmosphere, arenas where humans have experienced and learned in the past and passed that information on to their progeny. That’s commendable, but shouldn’t we also come to terms that there are many avenues that are blackened and unlit. Wouldn’t it behoove us to command our actions based on belief in a tenet that states that fear of the unknown is simply another beautiful part of life? Shouldn’t we welcome the departures of our family members and friends? Shouldn’t we give thanks if our dog, coat or car is missing? Laughable, yes, but in all seriousness – if we live our lives in a swimming pool by only holding onto the sides because that’s where the safety is, we’re missing the whole experience of the medium that contains our beings.
Yes, a departure marks a new chapter down a path into the unknown. Yet, we can’t always expect to hide within the comfort of our routines. There is adventure in the unknown, risk and possibility. By looking in the mirror of routine, we simply see what we’ve already accomplished. Why not step out beyond our comforts and take pride and enjoyment in escaping the yokes that we’ve allowed the comforts of life to place upon us?


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