Being at base back in Madison has allowed time for reflection on the first 100 days of our adventure. This post is a personal account of the most life-changing experience that I (Mike) had on the trip thus far.
It happened one soggy morning in Redwood National Park when a voice in my head that had been telling the story of my life went definitively silent and the world as I knew it changed in an instant. Here’s how I got to that point:
Before we left I wanted to change the world; I saw people settle for jobs or relationships that stifled their creativity and dulled the spark in their eyes and I had a vision of how everything could be different. I didn’t know how exactly it would work out, but I knew that if only people could all get out of our own way and trust each other we were poised to make some real strides in human evolution(* see bottom). I was obsessed; working towards anything else seemed pointless.
We set out to explore and be part of that change, to openly trust people, to follow inspiration above all else. I was hoping we would be one of the first groups of people to attain financial success through living in an entirely new context where all that mattered was shared experience and personal growth. I wanted to prove that this evolution is happening and that just joining it can sustain a really awesome lifestyle.
What I didn’t realize was that therein lay a big problem- I had something to prove. For all my conviction that I was embodying the selfless and inspired person of the future, my ego was still surreptitiously in the picture. I was falling into a trap that’s held people who want to do good back for millennia, not realizing my hidden insecurities, which meant my confidence and vision depended on other people’s reactions.
Well, what ensued was a roller-coaster of some of the best and worst feelings of my life. There were times people showed us huge smiles, telling us we’d rejuvenated their trust in life and inspired them to follow their dreams, and we were living large. There were other times when we sat on the bus alone and weren’t even able to explain to the people who loved us most what we were trying to accomplish. Had I been less reliant on my ego, I would have seen the necessity and benefit of these times of rest, but as it was they felt like tormenting lows of stagnation.
It was during one of these lows, feeling like I’d thrown away everything I ever had for nothing, that for the first time I can remember I fell to my knees and surrendered. I gave up that I was going to change the world, I gave up that it was my duty to change the world, I gave up that I knew how the world should change.
I cried in earnest for the first time in a long time, and through the tears the world around me opened to infinity, as if there had been some invisible curtain around my perception that suddenly fell away to reveal the vastness of everything and the tiny-ness of me. Everything was quiet, more quiet than any time I remembered, and I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do, what to base even the smallest actions on, and I couldn’t remember ever wondering that before.
Then the vibrancy of the damp redwood forest enveloped my senses and invited me to explore. I realized how alive the trees were and how little all the enormity of ideas in my head made any difference to them. I think that’s when I became aware that my inner dialogue had ceased.
Then I gave up that there was anything about the world other than myself that even needed changing, and I realized the real potential people have for creating their own lives. Society as a reflection of all the people who make it up began to make sense. It shifted from something that’s messed up and holds people down to just the best collective effort we’ve got to all live together given each of our limitations.
It’s these limitations of insecurity, habit, fear, addiction and ultimately lack of awareness that result in the sadness and injustice I had set out to help alleviate. Realizing this transformed the seemingly impossible struggle to change the world into a very real opportunity to let my ego attachments go and actually be able to choose how to play my small part in the natural flow of our creative evolution.
This is one of many realizations we’re having that are helping us figure out our next direction and pivot. As we head down to Austin for SXSW next week we’ll be looking to come to and utilize more.
A short poem inspired by the scene when my ego dissipated
Deep, guttural, mottled red trunks
released from bursting roots of the past
rise to create solace in leafy whispers
that float down in the wind
and wake up in the future.
* As technology increases, we are or will soon be breaking many of the physical constraints that gave the context in which we built our current social structure. What happens to competition, for example, when material and energy is unlimited? When travel is free? When physical ailment or age is solved by robotic implant? When there’s robots, for that matter?
This gives us an unprecedented freedom to re-create the human experience. How will we choose to spend our time? What will be the new virtues to strive for?