Many individuals have asked me to share more about my walkabout -- a two-week sabbatical from the world over the 2003 holiday season. As I've already written about some of the results of the trip, I suspect what they're wanting is a different perspective, or perhaps some more personal insights. As that experience was a very personal, powerful one, I do not care to reveal more details to the world at large. However, upon gaining some perspective post-walkabout, I find that I would like to share a bit more about an unexpected but highly valuable insight from it.
I had wanted the walkabout for two reasons: as a vacation from my work and family responsibilities, which although enjoyable had begun to weigh heavily upon me; and to have sufficient time and peace for some long-overdue introspection. It wasn't until I returned home that I realized I had given myself another, possibly even more-needed break.
That break was from the incessant cultural chatter that is virtually impossible to escape. I don't watch television (except for rare times when I join my children while they're watching something) and don't listen to radio. However, I do a huge amount of web browsing, and much of that requires trolling the mainstream news sources for material for Freedom News Daily. I hadn't realized, until I returned to it, how corrosive a thing that is to me.
I began to notice more cultural corrosives after that discovery. Even a relatively benign thing like shopping exposes one to many social or cultural stereotypes and expectations that are misguided or downright unhealthy to a freedom-loving individual. If one is at all observant of one's fellow humans in his or her midst, that too can set off any of a number of negative responses.
So much of the world is inimical to individual liberty. So many of us who have devoted our lives to expanding freedom are little understood, and often valued even less. Sometimes that's true even among those who would be our allies but for hubris, dogmatism, or any other self-defeating silliness. Add to that the unceasing stream of bad news from the world at large -- goodbye privacy; more war, more bloodshed, and less human decency on almost every continent; more coin flushed down the bureaucrat and regulatory commodes -- and it's amazing we who cherish freedom aren't burning out faster than we are.
But we are burning out. I've teetered on the precipice again, just a few short months after my soul-cleansing walkabout. I've seen many others making comments that suggest they, too, are walking the razor's edge. What can be done?
I don't mean drop out in the Thoreau-esque style of living a hermit's life -- at least, not at the beginning. What I mean is to drop out and take a break from life's pressures and challenges, in order to refocus on yourself. Many freedom activists get so caught up in the perpetual cause that they seem unable to disengage until they do flame out. That's sad. It's also completely unnecessary.
While the effort to advance liberty is a noble and highly worthy cause, it is also a never-ending effort. Too many of us seem to forget or ignore that hard reality, often at our own peril. How free are we if we enslave ourselves to the ideals of liberty? If we take on too much and therefore render ourselves less effective, we end up working against ourselves and our allies, no matter what our good intentions might be. As long as one is committed to working for that cause, one must keep in mind the necessary balance between the cause and one's own personal liberty -- and one's well-being.
Drop out of the culture and drop out of civilization as much as possible. Drop out of activism too. Then, tune in to your own rhythms, your own needs and desires, hopes and fears. Chances are you'll discover, much as I did, that the path you've been treading is not a healthy one for you -- not one you intended when you set out. Only after you recognize that will it be possible for you to set it right, and re-plot your course. That will in turn help you regain your sense of purpose, and very likely your ability to enjoy your own freedom.
We all need balance and focus in our lives. Sometimes those things seem to come only after a hard lesson, such as a burnout. But there's a difference between the burnout that incinerates the soul and the cleansing fire that instructs, "Hey, wake up! What you're doing isn't healthy for your head!"
For me, I can only take so much fire, whether good or bad; I found that I needed to escape, in order to see a way clear of the smoke billowing in my mind. An escape may work similar wonders for you. You may require months of solitude to regain the precious insight to your soul -- or it may take you just an afternoon in a hammock. Whatever works for you -- as long as it does work -- is what's important. You may discover that you want to rearrange your life and priorities; you may discover that you've been on the right course all along, but moving at a pace that doesn't suit you. You'll almost certainly discover that you have more choices than you think you do -- and you'll likely find that by consciously thinking about those choices, then making informed decisions, your enjoyment of life will return.
I don't claim any great insights into the meaning of life, but I do think that a fundamental element driving human action is the desire to be effective. To be an effective individual, one must first know oneself. Only then can an individual choose a path that will allow him or her to be genuine. And only when a person is able to be so honest with him- or herself will he or she be able to create authentic, fulfilling consensual relationships with others.
The world is amazingly interconnected via the internet, and becoming more so each day. The possibilities for happiness -- as well as for misery and pain -- are legion. As tempting as it may be to get, and remain, plugged in to all that connectivity, it is vitally important to first connect with yourself.
So, do it.
Then tune in to the best friend you can ever have -- yourself.
Sunni Maravillosa has a web site with a great blog and many other features, visit it at - http://www.sunnimaravillosa.com/