We've all heard the expression from Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. Anyone can pay lip service to that expression, share it as a meme on Facebook, then return to mind-numbing cat videos. We are so distracted and addicted to technology that it's difficult to find sufficient peace and quiet to meaningfully reflect.
When you go outdoors, whether it's a walk in the park, hike, camping trip or visit to the beach or lake, you are less likely to have your nose in an electronic device. When we are in nature, we're in the moment. This is known as "mindfulness."
This is one of the reasons I look forward to our annual camping trip in Sequoia National Park. I'm in the moment all week, focusing on things like the meal I'm making, the meal I'm cleaning up, keeping food away from bears, the sounds of the lake, separating feuding children, whether I should kayak now or in an hour, etc. One of my favorite traditions is to walk down the trail to Hume Lake around 10:00 p.m., recline my beach chair and gaze at the stars. You have an unparalleled view of the Milky Way, can see satellites in orbit and are guaranteed to catch some shooting stars. You can't help but ponder your existence and place in the universe.
This trip becomes increasingly important to me with each passing year. When I'm out in nature, especially when I'm in the sequoias, I gain perspective and reflect upon my life in ways that never happen at home. All the noise and clutter is gone and the senses are heightened. I take stock of the previous year: my growth, successes, failures and lessons. I recalibrate my priorities and direction, and descend the mountain with renewed focus. That is what reflecting on life means to me. My capacity for self-reflection enhances my ability to ask meaningful questions of you during the interview process.
During our last trip to the sequoias we took a ton of photos we are excited to incorporate into this project. The pic above is one of them. My wife Nicole took this photo at dusk, when there wasn't a soul on the water. Perfect reflections sure can make one reflective. I will be sharing these photos, with the thoughts they inspire, in the coming weeks.
Tonight I'm going to share an intimate story about hypocrisy narrowly averted.
I finally got around to uploading pics from our annual trip to Hume Lake in Sequoia National Park. We returned two weeks ago. I wanted to incorporate the new images into the website and promotional materials, and was marinating some ideas about blog topics and memes. My wife and daughter were out for the evening, and I was home with my six year-old son Dylan. "Letting Dad work" was not high on Dylan's To-Do list tonight.
I was hoping for a quiet evening with devices off (except mine of course, I was working), with my son playing quietly in the next room, while I wrote profound and inspiring words. Six year-old boys don't play quietly, and mine certainly doesn't play alone. Dylan is always challenging me to Nerf gun wars, his favorite thing in the world. My reflexive response was that I had work to do, and he needed to be quiet. I looked over at a picture of him as a toddler, and it gave me pause. I thought how the time from that day to now was a blink of an eye. In another blink he'll be a tween. He'll prefer playing with friends over me. The Nerf gun phase will be over soon (it used to be trains), and something else will take its place.
How many more opportunities will I have for a Nerf battle with Dylan? His tastes evolve, quickly, something could happen to me, something could happen to... him. Do I really want to look back and regret all the times I said No? On my deathbed will I wish I worked more and played with my kids less?
When I interviewed Grandpa John he said one of his regrets was not taking the family on more outings. While money was tight at times, he admits he could have taken the family to the park or the beach. Grandpa John, now 97 years old, regrets not taking trips with the family. He either used that time working or rationalizing that he couldn't spend money. Tonight I was rationalizing that I had work to do. As I've read many times, playing with your kids is never a bad use of time.
A moment after glancing at that toddler photo in our stairwell, I considered the sad irony that as I worked to develop a project devoted to preserving family memories, I was ignoring my own family. How can I credibly blog about family bonds, with any authenticity, after dismissing an ephemeral opportunity to bond with my own son? What a hypocrite.
I stealthily picked up the most dependable dart gun, a basic three shooter with revolving chamber. It's the fist dart gun Dylan owned (he now has about 30). I quietly loaded and cocked the gun, took a few steps away, then spun around and shot Dylan square in the chest. It was on. We lit each other up with darts. That kid got shot many times. No mercy. I don't have to "let" him shoot me back. He has a good aim and efficiently goes for the Dad-kill. When the chambers emptied we would call a truce, collect darts and reload, then resume the bloodbath. For 15 minutes, my home was a real-life multiplayer Call of Duty map.
Dylan is now in bed, I can write with a clear conscience and renewed focus. Tonight I intended to post some pics from our trip and connect them to the Eternal Roots message. I decided instead to share a pic of me and Dylan on the lake. That's what Eternal Roots is really about. If I live to 97, my memoirs will reflect that I did take my kids on trips, and sometimes I did pause working so I could unleash a volley of darts in my son's direction.
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.