To What Use Shall You Put This Achievement?
"Growing and working, thinking and gaining power, reflecting and gathering insights, the student justifies his life; the future may safely be left to its own devices." - Henry Merritt Wriston, The Nature of a Liberal College
After a brief tickle of sunlight, the day delivers on its slate-colored promise, and the cool air of the hills and the flickerings of a lake between the tree trunks draw us farther along the trails. We're dimly aware that we've been climbing and turning all this time, but we're still shocked when we come to an overlook and realize that our meanderings have nearly enclosed the farm and lake that we spotted earlier in the morning. My legs and lungs stopped burning a while ago, and now the higher hills are posed like giant question marks across the valley. I wonder how I could get to them, and promise myself that one day I will break from these trails that grow easier with each visit. I want to look out from the higher places, back at where MK and I are standing now, and take stock of the journey between the then and there and the here and now. I am not yet 28, and if I still feel young and strong walking these paths, enough to want to leave them behind, I also feel my own changeability waning. I am starting to crave the answers to those questions I habitually set aside, because I am still malleable enough to do something with them.
The quiet of these woods where Rabbit has built his warren always puts me in a reflective mood. There is something about the total quiet of a house in the middle of both the night and nowhere that turns my inner monologue into a Socratic interrogation. Introspection is harder in the city, where Cambridge's workers of The Works use their jackhammers and drills to crack the vault of my thoughts and send them scattering. Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" dystopia is, from my perspective, just an accurate recounting of life near a busy Cambridge intersection. When I reach Rabbit's place, I have the luxury of following those stray trains of thought to the end of the line. In the city I ask myself, "What shall I do today?" In the woods, the question eventually grows to be, "How shall I live my life?"
It's not just the peaceful Walden-esque surroundings that put me in this frame of mind, but also the people I share them with. Looking at Julian and Rob Daviau, I see grown, responsible men who have managed to retain something of the child about them without degenerating into man-children. Chatting with them late at night over pipes and whiskey, or across forest trails, I am trying to draw my own map toward the playful, thoughtful adulthood that they exemplify, at least to me. Yet I must let my own character guide me, without letting it turn me away from a destination that is as full of family, friendship and fulfillment as this one.
Later today, after we descend the gentler slopes we avoided on our way up to this promontory, my time-out from daily life will reach its end. There are bills to be paid, after all, and already the emails from editors and colleagues are starting to pile up, demanding answers and decisions. But right now I'm trying to figure out what I want from this life and, by extension, the career I am building alongside it. There are so few things I read these days, my time is so limited, that I have become aware of just how few outlets and writers I will consistently make the time to follow. Would I pass my own inspection? Or would I start closing articles after the first few paragraphs produced the disappointment of the familiar and mundane, until eventually I stopped reading past the byline?
I got into this partly by accident, and my career since then has been more improvised and stumbled upon than planned. Now I want to know that I'm making the most of this opportunity, that I am sharing and contributing to the good things in this life of play. The ways they enrich us, through the people they lead us to meet or the understanding they help us gain, are what interest me. But those are what I have the hardest time communicating. Because I know on some level that I've left too many questions go unanswered or, worse, unasked. Now, when I sit down to write, I feel hemmed in by the shrouded cliffs of my own ignorance. Somewhere beyond them, I feel, are the things I want to say. The things that can only be said by that best version of myself that I hope waits for me across this valley.