Life is a Highway...
“Think about the wheel of your car moving down the highway. The wheel touches the road only a tiny little fraction of a moment, and then the next moment, the next moment, and the next moment after that. Life is like that.”
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, “Crossing the Ocean”
I read this quote awhile back, and as you know, I am a keeper of quotes. I like to read them, save them, marinate on them, and then, usually much, much later, write about them.
I like this one because of the very little amount of time that one part of the wheel is actually touching the road, but that one tiny part of the wheel’s turn touching, makes the whole event possible. And that is a great metaphor for life.
I am only touching my life a tiny fraction of the time. Often, I am distracted, distanced, obsessed, distressed, confused, the list in endless really, so many moments in just even a day where I am not really touching my life, yet I am living it all the time, moment after moment, day after day. And all those moments where I am living, loving, breathing in and out are what make up my life. Each one important in its own right, and life being almost meaningless without even one of them.
This quote reminds me of two very different ideas: one that each tiny fraction of my life matters, and, at the same time, all those tiny moments add up to the larger whole and make life, life.
Life unfolds before me, one moment after another. I have this tendency, well, really defect, that I am always trying to get to particular moments, and avoid other moments. Like right now, I do not want to get through today, I just want to be at the moment where I land in Hawaii tomorrow. But if I go through today, living for that moment, that, let’s be honest, could never arrive, I would miss so much of my life and the lives of others.
Today I get to spend one more day with my animals before I have to miss them for a week. One more day in my home, that I love and cherish. One more day that I get to show up at work and do my best. I get to pick my dad up today from the rehabilitation hospital and bring him home. I get to help my mom in whatever capacity she might need. I get to see Maria and get an update about Ramiro. I get to do all of this today. And if I live only for the moment of touch down in Hawaii tomorrow, I will have missed so very much.
Life is like a highway, an ever changing view, sudden traffic jams, tragic accidents, hard returns on what seems to be an endless loop. And I need always remember that I share this road, this life with all the other people out there trying to get from Point A to Point B. And these other people, they often miss, sometimes completely, moment after moment in their quest to hurry up and get to a destination. Me too. I do that too.
The older I get, though, the more I realize that the ultimate destination begs ever closer...that moment where I leave this life and move onto whatever comes next after life. The highway of life ends, well, at least that is conventional wisdom of how we see it. Perhaps the highway continues on, and we see that this was always something that was meant to be enjoyed, that this thing we call life, really only the first part in a much longer “life” cycle that is endless once we are on the other side. I mean we do not know. We spend so much time fearing death, stealing joy from each other and ourselves, recklessly spending all these moments as if we have an endless supply.
So as I age, I try to remember all the moments that my wheels are touching surface. I am moving forward. I am moving in this life, forward to places unseen, experiences unknown, and unknowable. I live, so I go. And perhaps the most important thing I do, is remember that the life gets better, harder, and more enjoyable, the more I pay attention to each one of those moments, or at least as many as I can, where my wheels touch the pavement. Each time I touch my life, I live better, more fully and with an earnestness that makes me humble, more loving and hopefully gracious. I love the saying that we are all just walking each other home...I like even better to think that life is a highway, and we can move at top speed and get wherever we think we are going fast, or we can slow down, letting others live the top speed life, and we can slow it way the fuck down, and enjoy every single one of those minutes our wheels touch the earth beneath us.
And finally, that it is good, in fact needed, sometimes for us to go off the highway, take a road less traveled, without pavement or sign. To allow ourselves to stop the wheels constant forward motion, and to find a path that allows us to move slowly forward in moments where our feet take over for the wheels. The trajectory altered, and hopefully, so are we.