“The sea's only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.” –Christopher McCandless
I don’t know if Chris actually spoke these words. I am unsure if he said them or if they were created for the movie “Into the Wild.” Who said them matters very little to me. I am more concerned with their meaning and how we might apply them to our lives.
Now, this isn’t another post from a writer occupying some hidden corner of the web with the intention of inspiring you to change your life. Only you can decide to do that. The media you interact with has very little to do with the process. My hope here, as always, is to start a conversation. Now, here is some things I pulled from the quote above…
We should test ourselves once. You may not necessarily need to reject society, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or leave the big city, but I would encourage you to test yourself. Test yourself with the understanding that once may not be enough. When I chose to move to Seattle, I tested myself. It was a revelatory experience. I have learned more about myself in these last four years than the previous 27. For that, I will be forever grateful. I also fully acknowledge it might be time for another lesson. Where I once shied away from these moments, I have now come to embrace them in an effort to learn something more about myself and discover some much needed clarity. When we test ourselves, we create the environment for these sorts of things to happen. We may fail or we may succeed, but without a doubt we will learn something about ourselves.
Testing ourselves may be uncomfortable. This zone of discomfort is so vitally necessary. As my mother is famous for saying, these moments build character. I would take it a step further and say they reveal character. When our backs are against the wall and options seem few, we are forced to face certain truths about ourselves and the circumstances which confine us. Here, we find that we are capable. We have knowledge, power and choices that may have been hidden from our view. If life didn’t provide these moments… well despite the pain, that wouldn’t be a life I would want to live.
I also think these moments provide an opportunity to disconnect from our electronic lives. We are bombarded with news, updates, statuses and a fear of missing out. I, for one, worry what this is doing to us. On a daily basis, I consider disconnecting from it all. I think about other places I could seek out to fill me up and stiffen up my ego. When I moved here, I decided photography, hiking and traveling would provide those opportunities. These adventures could be chances to have moments that are just mine. They would also be moments to test myself and my limits. What things do you do to test your abilities? Let me know in the comments below.
Along the same lines, I think simplification is how to pursue life. The world is so loud and filled with so many distractions, needs, wants and desires. Really, all we need is a roof overhead, food in our bellies, loving family and friends, and something to satisfy our passions; anything beyond that is noise. A great test for us is to find ways to simply our lives. Let’s try to get back to the things that matter and quiet the things that don’t. This, of course, is easier said than done. Centering one’s self isn’t easy, but no worthwhile test should be.
Finally, we should test our limits. I say it and hear it said all the time, “I could never do that.” In truth, we have no clue of what we are capable of when tested. I think we all possess the power to surprise ourselves; which I think is the whole point of the quote above and this post. We should allow ourselves to be surprised. We should pursue things we didn’t think possible. We should fail. We should succeed. We should love life and reject one of conformity and comfort.
Thanks for entering my world,