An Odyssey of Our Own

So, this is life:

In the grand scheme of things, we are not here for a terribly substantial amount of time. Our elders tell us over and over how quickly time goes by– but we’re impetuous and young. We have all the time in the world and it seems that very fact makes it creep along… Until one day you look around and realize, “I’m not a kid anymore. How did that happen? I have bills. I have to work even when it’s summertime. I think I might be a freaking adult.”

Suddenly you’re not sure where you’re at anymore. When you were young, you had a plan. You had it all figured out. But… Life crept in when you weren’t expecting it. Now you’re in the middle of a career you never actually chose and making decisions about things you don’t actually care about.

In the movie Apollo 13 three astronauts are stranded inside a spaceship without their main engine. In order to return home, they have to approach the moon to allow the moon’s gravity to slingshot them back to Earth. You can see the plan explained here.

I think that’s kind of how life works. Left to our own devices, we’re like the kid in the first video; flying in a very straight line, interacting with nothing around us. Despite the mysteries of this life, despite the hidden places that make beauty almost palpable, despite the billions of people around us that have the ability to enrich our lives… It’s all too easy to become a prisoner of our own routine.

Fortunately, all those things that make life worth living, the ones that breathe life into our moldering bones are all around us if we’re willing to look for them. Relationships, hobbies, ideas, music, art,  causes, all of these things are what make this world a place worth being.

The trick to it is that these things are like moons and planets. Some of them are enormous and we’re completely unable to resist the pull of their gravity. We get sucked in, and we could orbit that particular planet for years. Others are tiny little moons. We show a feigning interest in their gravity just long enough to find ourselves pulled away from our original course and headed toward some planet we never even knew existed.

Imagine a field of planets of varying sizes. You’re in a tiny little rocket, and it’s up to you to choose which planets you allow yourself to get drawn toward. After a while of orbiting you pick up enough speed to break free and discover a new world. But, it’s complex. When we imagine it, we imagine a direct path… A distinct beginning, middle and end. But humans don’t live like that, of course. It’s terribly rare for us to be caught in the gravity of just one planet at a time. While we’re circling one massive planet, we can at the same time be orbiting around moons galaxies away.

Here’s an example. Throughout my life, I’ve always harbored a deep and endless love for good stories and compelling characters. That is a ginormous planet that I’ve been circling for years. During my trips around planet Story, I found myself pulled into the gravity of one of Story’s moons called “Breaking Bad”. I enjoy the moon thoroughly, but it’s not a planet that’s going to keep me in its hold forever. It did, however, push me into the path of an oncoming satellite called “Cold Process Soap Making”. (Walt’s endless love of chemistry and his cool equipment inspired me to try my hand at making soap. I figured soap carried less opportunity for death and mayhem than meth.) All the while, I’m still circling planet Story.  I’m also orbiting the arid world of Faith. And the dark and nebulous planet Writing. All at the same time.

Our lives are made up of these things that tug and pull on us. They whisper intoxicating invitations to our ears, and it’s up to us to be strategic and mindful in choosing the planets (and the crew) that will leave us fulfilled and happy. Our time here is so short… Don’t find yourself in the position of circling a planet you’re not in love with for years of your life.

Take control right now and make a list of the planets, moons, satellites, and other astral bodies in your life. Now write a new list, this time fill it with all of the planets and people you’ve always been intrigued by but never made any real move towards. Chart a course toward a new star system. The first step is simply deciding that you’re not going to let life happen to you anymore. Be direct. Be specific. Be stubborn. Refuse to take anything less than an epic drama of adventure and exploration.

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