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Let’s call him Harold. Harold is a nice guy. At the office, on the job, most everybody likes him. But at home, not so much. He is married, but his wife isn’t in love with him anymore. She isn’t ready for divorce. She just isn’t thrilled being around him anymore. And, her irritations are growing. Their one child is in high school. Years ago, Harold would take their delighted little one riding in that same seat at the rear of his bicycle. Next year, she will be heading off to college. His wife might consider divorce then, but she isn’t planning on it. It wouldn’t work financially. And, it would devastate their daughter. Crushed because her parents are breaking up would severely shake her self-confidence and multiply her worries. Her ability to concentrate, absorb, grow, find her own firm footing in the world would be non-existent. No, Harold’s wife is not considering divorce, not now or in the near future. She is resigned. Not happy, but resigned. Harold, on the other hand, has decided he is ready for a change. He has decided it is time for him to significantly alter the routine and maybe the direction of his life. Today is the day he has chosen to begin. Good luck, Harold.

We all, all of us, arrive at points in our life when we feel the need to re-access, re-think, re-organize, re-direct the course, the path, the goals, the tempo, even the companions of our lives. I talked with an older guy recently in Hamburg PA who described his experience arriving at such a point in his life more than 20 years ago. What he decided to do, by most measures, was rather drastic. But, it apparently worked for him. As he put it, and visibly so, he was now quite satisfied with his life. Per his telling, he’d dropped everything, quit his job, hopped in his car, with no money and few clothes, and drove out of town. For the next ten years, yes ten years, he stopped here and there across the US and Canada and just walked and thought and absorbed, and sometimes talked and worked and helped out, or was helped by whomever he met along the way. He called it “walking with God”. I’d met a guy with a similar story back in college. That guy had recently spent three years walking the middle-east and North Africa trying to understand what Jesus saw and did. He was now feeling quite settled and completely refocused on finishing his doctorate in philosophy and moving on to seminary. I’ve also met homeless guys on the streets of Chicago, some of them veterans, who were meandering through a similar process of rediscovering who they were and what life was all about for them. And, I have to admit that between high school and college, when my parents were breaking up, and so seemed the world amidst the Viet Nam War, the Civil Rights Movement, two recent assassinations, and Riots in Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, that I took a similar kind of sabbatical, several in fact. One in particular had me setting off on foot from Chicago westward with only the clothes on my back and two tea bags in my pockets. I arrived in Los Angeles some ten or twelve days later with sore feet, several hitch-hiking adventures, and experience riding a freight train. Afterward, I told my dad I’d finally made up my mind to apply to college. He was pleased. And, he completely understood, because what I’d done wasn’t unlike what he did following the conclusion of WWII when he bought an old car and wandered back and forth between Long Beach, where he’d been stationed fixing war planes, and his parents’ home near Chicago, trying to decide what was next for him in his life.

The point is, we all occasionally, or maybe even more than occasionally, arrive at points in our lives where there is a choice to be made: continue as we were intending, take someone else’s advice, or come up with a completely new plan on our own. In nearly all cases, for character’s sake, I’d advise first considering what other’s think and have done, then setting off on your own to weigh and strive for the kind of consequences you would be comfortable living with for the rest of your life. As I have stated more than once throughout these postings, consequences matter. They matter for you. They matter for others. They matter for the planet we live on.

Just as an aside, I highly recommend a very readable and thoughtful book written long ago by social psychologist John C. Glidewell, published by MIT Press, called Choice Points: Essays on the Emotional Problems of Living with People.

Depressing as the day after day news may seem, the world and your personal opportunity to make a difference have not yet totally evaporated within the dust of self-serving ill-considered folly. May wisdom come to you. May opportunity come to you. May courage come to you. And, may good health be with you always.

Saturday, July 21st, 2012