"If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for." — Thomas Merton
What do I want to live for? What's keeping me from living fully toward that end? I've been looking at this quote for weeks now trying to develop an answer for Thomas. Answers to the easy questions are conversation fillers and come to the tongue quickly.
I live in a van, I eat tacos, and I don't comb my hair.
The tougher answers come somewhat apprehensively. I enjoy running, hiking and riding in the mountains. I enjoy reading, studying, and writing to lead an examined and deliberate life. I enjoy travel and downshifted adventures. And, though as an introvert it's taken me some time to recognize and accept this, I enjoy helping others do these things for themselves.
“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life.” – Yvon Chouinard / 180° South
These are things I enjoy — thoroughly. Is my enjoyment and desire for such activities strong enough to state I live for them? It seems selfish to claim living for self examination and adventure. Can one live for adventure, particularly when those adventures are humble in the eyes of most? We live in a culture that labels those pursuing such things as irresponsible, unless they do it epically and push human limits. Those of us happy to pursue humble adventures aren't labeled adventurers or explorers, but rather dirtbags, vagabonds, or slackers. The difference between the explorer and the dirtbag in most cases is simply level of commitment and then ability. One can argue the passion and desire are equal. The differentiating commitment is likely fueled by a personal acceptance and confidence in their lifestyle choice, though it lie outside the norm.
They confidently answer Thomas with:
"I am a mountain explorer."
"I am a climber."
"I am an adventure cyclist."
"I am a writer."
If Thomas were to ask in detail what is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for, I'd have to reply it's my own perception of the value I place on that thing. I can't rightly claim to live for humble adventures and self examination if I do not place a high enough value on those things and in turn direct all my energy toward them. To remove what keeps me from fully living for humble adventures and self examination I must continue to work on my perception of value and my confidence in the worthiness of such pursuits. Recognizing that I equally enjoy helping others choose and pursue a similar path helps place value on that which I do. That is a start, as is:
"I live for humble adventures and self examination, and helping others pursue what they live for."
So, reader, what are you living for and what is keeping you from living fully for the thing you most want to live for?
Interestingly, while I intently chose quotes about self examination, I did not realize until this final paragraph that the quoted individuals walked the same path I pursue. One led a life of determined self examination, and the other continues living a life of adventures that are now more humble in nature.