By The Numbers

Western culture runs on numbers. This is of course the water we swim in–which is why we clash with other cultures that show up an hour late for everything. We assume they run on the same stringent paranoia that we do–worn to a nub by a thousand deadlines a day. But I was heaved on to dry land a few weeks ago while backpacking in Hoosier National Forest. As we worked our way up steep ridges my body protested–reminding me that teaching guitar is not very demanding on the calves. But also my heart and my mind protested the effort it took to not know precisely what time it was and at what minute we would be doing the next thing. I felt both the physical and emotional resisting the pace, but in a way I knew would make me stronger.

Later that day I sat on a log next to a campfire, my poncho fending off a light drizzle. Every so often I would hear a heavier dose of rain in the distance–coming to me then racing off much like a crowd at a baseball game doing the wave. The third or so time it happened I answered the call and raised my hands. I sat there listening and reading a book for I have no clue how long.

I had finally settled into timelessness. When I was hungry–I ate. When there was work to be done stoking the campfire–I gathered branches. When it got dark–I stared at embers until I was tired enough to fall asleep on the rooted ground–which didn't bother me too much as I knew that I would be woken gracefully by sunshine with no particular itinerary afterward. For the first time in a long time, time did not have it's hour and minute hands wrapped around my throat.

Activities like these have given me new perspective. In fact I consider them spiritual disciplines. Things like planting a garden and a failed attempt at walking from Goshen to Columbus, Ohio shock me out of embracing the inevitability of our Western ways–that we are only doomed to be busy and strained so long as we embrace wholesale the prescribed definition of what constitutes a 'good life'–a definition which by the way was not previously accessible to 99.9999% of people who have lived on the earth since man's appearance.

If you try to work the books and live a life by the numbers you might feel like life becomes a little more sane, but business will still be the majority shareholder. But if we aspire to something else, something that holds relationship and purpose as the highest value–well, my theory is that we will be free to use a watch here and there when we find it helpful.