Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A High Desert Essay: The Road of Life

You know what I like about long road trips? You have plenty of time to think; especially when you are traveling in Nevada or southern Idaho. As I am driving through the high desert with really nothing to draw your attention to, I enter the "eyes-open-daylight-dreaming" zone. It's a zone where you have to stay in touch with reality, but only enough to be real and stay real. By that I mean, you still got to focus on the task at hand - driving a car.

A few miles into my “zone” a few past events in my life pop into my head. I try not to think too much about the past because there isn't anything that I can do about it. Been there, done that, it's over, I think. Sure, I think about what if I had done some things differently, but then you get in to the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" game which gets you nowhere. So I tried to focus on the future and make sure that I don't repeat past mistakes. What? Past mistakes? I took some time to think about that, perhaps 50-60 miles. (Time almost becomes irrelevant, but distance is what you are trying to achieve so it becomes the measure.) Again the rule is no worries about what you did back then, but to try and understand how and why you made the mistake so you don’t repeat them. What I discovered was that some past mistakes were just out of my control. Or were they? Although scientists say nothing is truly forgotten from your brain. You somehow only selectively remember certain things and is or was that reality, or did you unwittingly change how you recalled some of the past? These paradoxical questions consumed at least another 50 miles of thought; unfortunately without any resolution. So now I'm at least 100 miles in with nothing accomplished or resolved except miles traveled towards my destination. I am beginning to realize that any thinking of the past is fruitless. However my mind is a big collection of past events and the little mind gremlin in my head keeps on resurrecting past things, events, and thoughts as I drive along.

Again, I try to focus on the scenery but there's really nothing to see and so the little mind-past-times-and-events gremlin in my head returns with more personal history. Out loud I say, "Stop thinking about the past and focus on the future." As if this is going to help? My traveling companion - my dog - looks at me with a look to say, “say what?” He then returns to his blissful sleep.  I then earnestly work on thinking about the future. I ask myself how do I think about the future. The future hasn't happened yet so how can you think about it? An epiphany emerges. I realize that the future is akin to the road I am driving on. I see the Interstate in front of me, for sure a half a mile, sometimes further. Sometimes as I crest a hill I can see the road I'm about to travel on for miles ahead. This is my future. Then it comes to me, I can't really see the past (except in my rear view mirror and it fades fast) - only vaguely remember it, and the farther I drive the more vague the memory of the past becomes. But if I look at the road ahead it is clear, I see it, it's where I am going - it is my future (albeit not too distant future). I'm smiling now starting to believe that all these miles traveled have given me a revelation on life. Woo hoo! I can see my future.

I further realize that I am in full control of my future. I can stop, turn this way or that way, but always looking ahead I see my future. But as other cars pass me I get solemn and realize that they too can affect my future. The guy right next to me can simply choose to swerve without any warning and immediately affect and alter my future, maybe even direly. All I can do is react. Same goes for the poor bastard driving next to me. I exchange a quick glance with my neighboring driver on my right with a Mona Lisa hint of a smile that I, at this instant, control not only my future but yours too, buddy. How do like that? You are truly clueless as to what I can do. All of a sudden to my left is another vehicle passing me probably thinking the same to me.

Hmm? I can see my future. I can control it within reason, but unexpectedly someone or something else can change my future beyond my control. I ponder this for many miles. I look at the bug splatters on my windshield and realize that I have affected their futures too. They didn't affect my future, but something bigger could. A deer or cow could definitely affect my future. What about tumbleweed?  Nah, I would blast right through it.  What about a large rock or some other junk?  Ugh, I shudder;  luckily only bugs for now.

The weather is sunny and clear, so I'm traveling as fast as I can legally go and then some. I can see far in front of me. Right now, at this instant and as I look ahead my future is bright and sunny too. If the weather were different, like foggy, or rainy, or snowy, I would slow down. So would my life. I began to realize that life isn't always as the country song "Sunny And 75." There are times when you are traveling in the dark or limited visibility. There are times when road conditions are not safe; or when you choose roads - other than highways - that force you to drive differently, e.g., slower or more cautiously. I now come to the conclusion that I am truly on the road of life.

So now I adapt my highway future paradigm to my life - now. I've only got a few more miles to go before I stop for the day, so I feel I got to wrap this up. I'm in a zone that's for sure with all these metaphysical prognostications. Oh my, then it hits me, where am I? On this trip I am on my way to a specific destination.  I took the time to plan an itinerary and route. I have a road map. F' me! Do I have a road map, an itinerary for my life? Now I'm totally dismayed. The little thought gremlin in my head is giggling, no, hysterically laughing. Dang! I spy my exit ahead ending today's travels and my eyes-open-daylight-dreaming - back to reality. There's more traveling tomorrow to consider this.

Wow, I just drove about 300 miles and don't remember much about actually driving. Cool.

Please note! Eyes-open-daylight-dreaming-driving is dangerous and is not recommended. Losing focus on driving could lead to an accident.  Stay alert while driving and always focus on safety.  Who knows you could impact and affect my future.

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