Monday, August 13, 2012

The Sabbatical - Thoughts on Anticipation

Anticipating an event is often the best part of the event...or maybe.  I recall a range of vacations planned for the family in which much energy was spent designing outings and creating efficient assaults on a range of destinations.  Perhaps the greatest example was in our several trips to Disney World.  I loved going to Disney World, as much for the rather fantastic ways in which they lifted me out of the normal contexts of life in which everything that should be done must be done by oneself and resettled us in a place where we were surrounded by folks, who were universally referred to as cast members, whose sole goal in life seemed to be to ensure that our every need was met in a joyous and immediate flurry of service.  Yet, while the whole system was designed to provide a grand experience, it was also true that we were surrounded by tens of thousands of fellow travelers all attempting to experience the same joys at the same time in the same place...thus creating a bizarre combination of the competitive along with the leisurely.  Into this milieu I would throw myself, armed with The Unofficial Guide to Disney World and other similar resources, to create the best, highly structured, comprehensive Disney experience.  The joy of the trip, then, was found in the creation of this PLAN along with its successful execution, garnering the praise and respect of ones fellow travelers.

Of course, when traveling with others there is the inevitable moment when one's pristine plans come face to face with the messy reality of competing needs and desires.  This was most notable when it came from a seven year old upon whom the excitement of being served and having a grand plan was somewhat lost...particularly in comparison with the immediate and fully sufficient joy of having a pool at one's disposal without leaving the hotel.  On one particular trip this led to a complete abandonment of the plan as well as any pretense of visiting the Disney parks in favor of just hanging out at the hotel.  The key to success at that moment was a willingness to let go of the siren song of the PLAN and embrace the joy of something else entirely -- which is also very doable.

Alain De Botton dedicates the first chapter of his book, The Art of Travel, to a consideration of the anticipation of travel and the inevitable gaps between anticipation and reality.  It leads me to consider that I am currently in the process of spending an entire year anticipating this journey that I am calling The Sabbatical.  Anticipation is inescapable and there is no need to escape it in the first place.  However, it seems to me that I would do well to recognize that the anticipation phase is wholly separate from the actual journey that will begin in June, 2013.  That anticipation is its own journey and has its own self-contained and self-fulfilling.  As the actual journey draws closer, it might be best to eschew anticipation in exchange for an openness to experience that remains as existential and free of presumption as is possible.

I have already, at this early stage, found myself having to resist the encouragement of friends and family who would imagine my journey having a PURPOSE.  A purpose which must essentially then create a need for anticipation.  Which isn't to say that there is no value in reflecting on purpose and having  plan and an expectation.  One fantasy of the journey that has already caught hold is the idea of entering a small town, discovering a help wanted sign in a small diner or hardware store, filling the job for four or five weeks in an exploration of that community and its folks, and then moving on.  These kinds of fantasies and expectations will grow and collect and litter the field of my plan; but they must needs remain vague and non-essential.

No comments: