I noticed the above phrase on a t-shirt in a posh clothing boutique in London when I was down there for the Kino course, and it has stuck in my head since. It taps into some of the thoughts I’ve been having this year about the benefits of travel and time spent out of the rat race.
It is my strong belief that everyone needs and deserves a time in their life to be completely selfish and focus on themselves. It doesn’t even need to be deeply spiritual (although bonus if it is) – it could just be having time to get to know yourself and understand your passions, your loves, your weaknesses, your goals, etc, and just check tht you’re on the right path. Or it could be an opportunity to contemplate the environment around you and your place within it. Or a chance to make peace with yourself if you’ve not been on the best of terms of late. But really, at some point in our life we all need some time and space to exist and see what occurs, without the stifling effect of external pressures, expectations and deadlines.
The Aboriginals know this – the mysterious ‘walkabout’ is often cited as an important part of their culture, whereby those teetering on the brink of adulthood follow the paths of their ancestors into the outback to look deep within themselves and appreciate the interconnectedness of themselves with the land. The kiwis, too, place an emphasis on the importance of independent travel and exploration before settling into adulthood. The ‘year abroad’ is extremely common amongst young kiwi adults, and it has its own special name which, frustratingly, escapes me, and, miraculously, appears to escape google too. But it’s lauded across the country as a time for kiwis to gain confidence and come to know themselves better, not to mention to see the world and challenge the mind before returning to the homeland, much better equipped to face whatever life then throws their way.
A still from the film, ‘Walkabout’.
Incidentally, I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that these two cultures have a deep spiritual link with their environment. Any kind of prolonged meditation will lead eventually towards an appreciation of the interconnectedness between man and the natural world that supports us. The hacking away at this important bond is the source of so many of the troubles and woes that we experience in this modern, technological world, which takes us further and further away from our earthy roots.
And the fast pace of this busy, modern world means it’s more important than ever to find some personal space and time out. Our lives can too easily become mechanical, where we flog ourselves daily to fit into prescriptive patterns of convention. Most people don’t even breathe properly, yet alone have mental space to think about what really matters in life and try and find some kind of inner peace. Depression, stress, illness and exhaustion abound…
However, the same reasons that make the need for space more important than ever, also make the possibility of achieving this extremely difficult. Modern perceptions of having time to yourself tend towards indulgence, self-absorption, irresponsibility, the reserve of the decadent wealthy, career suicide etc. I think these perceptions need to change. The world would be a happier place if people knew themselves better, if they didn’t resign themselves to a half-life of compromise and didn’t stifle their dreams in order to fit in with a prescribed norm.
Imagine a world where having time-out to gain deeper self-awareness and inner peace was seen as a priority. Imagine a government fund ring-fenced for enabling time out, imagine compulsory sabbaticals built into business policy, imagine a more sympathetic attitude towards time-out, because it would be the norm. Imagine… I like to think that, with the continued evolution of the human race, we will move beyond the technological revolution and on towards the spiritual revolution, where we will eventually find the balance between human endeavour, our own personal happiness and the health of the planet that is so lacking at the moment. On my very optimistic days, I even think that this revolution has already started; that there are the faintest stirrings of the next paradigm shift in this species’ fascinating story.
And, as a final word, if we don’t allow ourselves time-out, often it is forced upon us, for example through a nervous break-down or depression, as though our mind and body have had enough and are ganging up on us so we have to take action. Earlier this year I read a really interesting book by Paul Keetwell called ‘How Sadness Survived: The Evolutionary Basis of Depression, which argued that depression has evolutionary benefits stemming from ‘ye olden days’ (his approach was more scientific than this!). One of these benefits was that depression provides the sufferer with a valid excuse for taking time out of their normal life to face up to their problems and do some much-needed soul-searching, whilst being supported by the rest of the tribe. The whole argument was very convincingly couched in evolutionary terms, with survival being the main objective (e.g. it’s in the interests of the tribe to help the sufferer through their depression so that they can once more contribute). Definitely worth a read.
Anyway, enough. I realise that I’ve banged on quite a bit today – believe me, I could write much more! But to finish, I would add these (my own) words to this blog’s title:
All who wonder are not lost…
It’s good to think.