I am a nomad.
no·mad [noh-mad] noun
1. a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply.
2. any wanderer; itinerant.
All of my life I have been looking for home. And always, I’ve known I wasn’t there yet, though lately I feel myself drawing close to home. Tribe — I somehow always knew — had less to do with ethnicity or nationality or class or any of the usual barometers we look to to tell us who we are. These, of course, are constructs. Who we deeply are does not arise from the color of our skin, or the landmass where we hatched ourselves into this life, or even the place where we grew up (much as our experiences there — and the bodies we inhabit — shape who we become). We are a priori all of that.
I have never been able to say that I believe in past lives — belief seemed too strong a word. Still, I have known, since my earliest childhood, that these bodies, and these personalities, are not our lives. They are the raiments we’ve wrapped ourselves in while we live out this brief chapter.
I was five the first time I remembered a past life. In that life I was on a Scottish Moor in the 13th Century, watching the monks who had loved and sheltered me walk into the waters to their deaths. I stayed behind and lost my life in the Wars of Scottish Independence, which, if they were about anything, were about human dignity. Years later, I would find myself revisiting another past life, as a Cheyenne Indian in 18th Century Colorado. I was in love with a Union soldier and it didn’t go over well. One Google search later, I confirmed that the Cheyenne Indians were not from Colorado, and they aren’t there now, but they were there for a brief while, in the 18th Century. I don’t know what to make of this. I’m not sure I believe in past lives. But these stories help me make sense of the life I am living now, which has always, even when I looked away, been grounded in my deep desire to make a better world by helping to erase the lines that divide us.
Yesterday I happened upon a book from the writer/philosopher Alain de Botton, The Architecture Of Happiness it is called. It begin so lyrically that I will start my ruminations here, with de Botton’s first words:
“A terraced house on a tree-lined street. Earlier today, the house rang with the sound of children’s cries and adult voices, but since the last occupant took off (with her satchel) a few hours ago, it has been left to sample the morning by itself. The sun has risen over the gables of the buildings opposite and now washes through the ground-floor windows, painting the interior with a buttery yellow and warming the grainy-red brick facade. Within shafts of sunlight, platelets of dust move as if in obedience to the rhythms of a silent waltz. From the hallway, the low murmur of accelerating traffic can be detected a few blocks away. Occasionally, the letter-box opens with a rasp to admit a plaintive leaflet.
“The house gives signs of enjoying the emptiness. It is rearranging itself after the night, clearing its pipes and crackling its joints. This dignified and seasoned creature, with its coppery veins and wooden feet nestled in a bed of clay, has endured much… [It] has grown into a knowledgeable witness.”
de Botton’s words, so beautiful I could weep, aroused deep emotion in me, and set loose thoughts — free-radicals for my mind and soul — about architecture in the broadest sense, as the act of giving shape and structure, not to a building, but to a life.
I am deeply interested in this notion that the way we construct our lives matters, that the work of building fully realized lives takes place not only in the inner terrain of our emotional-psychological-spiritual landscape, but also “out there,” in the world, where we have the rarest of opportunities, by virtues of having obtained a human birth — which Buddhism tells us is difficult to attain. Mind you, this is not to suggest that there is anything particularly precious about human life. In the hierarchy of Buddhist cosmology it is low on the totem pole, but all states of consciousness in the universe are available to a human life, from suffering to the liberation therefrom, which we know by many names: enlightenment, satori, samādhi, Heaven on Earth.
Tags: Alain de Botton, Buddhism, Happiness, Home, The Architecture Of Happiness, THE FULLY REALIZED LIFE
Perhaps you think I’m greedy, perhaps you know what I mean. I want it all. I want a career that means something to me, a family that’s happy, and time enough to frolic the world, working and playing and blurring the lines between what I do for money, and what I do for love.
I want to be like the turtle in the picture above, first posted on our REVEL LIFE Tumblr.
Tags: I Want It All, Revel Wisdom, T.S. Eliot, The Vision, The Wasteland
When I dreamed up the idea for Revel In It Mag, I was reeling from years of having consigned my quest for meaning to the periphery of my life. I did yoga. I took up meditation. I dove deep into the kinds of deep and layered philosophical explorations that have played such an influential role in my life. I dabbled in neurobiology, psychology, history, political philosophy, spirituality and (sheepish grin) self-help, in an attempt to answer deep questions, about the nature of existence and the meaning of my own life. But always, these explorations took place under cover of darkness. They ran on parallel tracks with my actual, material life, the one I lived out in the world, where careers are built and moneys are made and families raised.
The time spent exploring my inner life, and the life of the mind, wasn’t wasted — my quest was fruitful, but eventually, I faced the polymath’s dilemma: I knew a lot, but what was it for?
Tags: Ambition, Descartes, Ego, Healing The Descartian Split, Success, TFRL, THE FULLY REALIZED LIFE
I love the idea of riding a bike in the city, even though it seems all wrong in the city where I live, where I’m pretty sure the risks of being run down are pretty high. Still, I dream of some future, more gentile time of bike lanes and patient, courteous drivers who are primed to share the road.
In Europe, getting about on a bike feels like the sane and civilized thing to do. A few years back in Barcelona, the hubby and I commandeered some rental bikes and saw the city in a whole new way. Of course, it did get dicey as we made our way into Gotti park in the Barcelona hills, but the ride down, and the opportunity it gave us to discover hidden pockets of the city, paid us back with dividends. We wore helmets. We were the only ones.
Tags: Bicycling, Getting Found, Getting Lost, Living The Fully Realized Life, Screenwriting, The Vision, Writing Novels