Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taking the long way home

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

It was Dale Carnegie who said, “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”  I have always been a person who enjoyed his life, no matter what stage, no matter where, and no matter when.
I have always had my own transportation whether it was a bicycle, motor scooter, or car.  And I came to know much of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I grew up from sixth grade through college, by taking the long way home.  I remember distinctly two places in Ann Arbor that I discovered on my own and that have affected me ever since.
There was a forest just about three or four blocks from our home on Sunset Road across from the Water Softener [the name we called it].  The paths through it were wide enough and smooth enough that I could bicycle most of the way, but to me it was spectacular.  Why?  Because it was quiet, except for the sounds of nature.  Also, it was away from everyone else.  I can’t remember ever meeting someone else on the paths.  I always felt like I was an explorer, and this was new territory I was uncovering.
We lived about three or four miles from the Huron River, and when I had my Lambretta (a motor scooter), I would often ride along Huron River Drive all the way to Dexter, Michigan, or even Chelsea.  There were a number of parks along the way and many access points down to the River.  So, often I would just cruise along the two-lane road, take in the trees and the water, and just enjoy the delightful solitude.
Just as an aside, when I was in college, I would transfer college students from a pick-up point on the University of Michigan campus, to the Unitarian Church meetings on Washtenaw Avenue.  I had to get a Chauffer’s License, but I drove a large yellow school bus once a week.  Several times, I would pick up the bus early then drive it out along Huron River Drive (even through the parks along the way) all the way to Dexter — just to bring back old times.  I also loved driving that great big yellow bus — and taking a very long way.
The desire to take the long way home never left me.  Now, I’ll have to admit that it is a great excuse when one gets lost.  For some reason, I have a terrible sense of direction; thus, often I take the long way home for no purpose and with no intention — except that I got lost.
There are dangers to just exploring unknown places, it is true.  And you have to be careful.  In Naples, Italy, I left the cruise ship (it docks almost in downtown Naples), and I walked by myself in the early morning (before stores had even opened their doors, and before the sidewalk vendors had laid out their merchandise), from our dock all the way through the main (expensive) part of town.  Not feeling like I was getting much of a sense of Naples, I turned down a side street, then another (trying to keep track of the turns I was making so I wouldn’t get lost).  Along these streets were the little markets, fresh fruit stands, and cozy restaurants and coffee bars that were active at this hour.
As I walked the back streets of Naples, I not only kept my eyes peeled for “shadowy” characters, but I kept up a very brisk walking pace as well.  Because I was dressed differently than those along the way, and I looked different, too, I made no eye contact with those I passed, never stopped for directions or to purchase anything, but took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the area.
When my family (my mother, father, and sister)  lived in Dacca, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) for a year, I had a brand new, light green, Italian bicycle.  (We bought it in Italy on the way to Pakistan.)  I was warned that if I parked it anywhere in the open, it would be stolen.  But, it was my sole means of transportation, and I rode it everywhere.  
From the place where I worked in Dacca (at the United States Information Service (USIS)) I would always take the long way home.  I explored the very poor areas, the ramshackle neighborhoods, the markets down by the river, and (being a teenager; I was 19 at the time) the fear of getting robbed, having my bicycle stolen from me, or encountering any kind of trouble, never crossed my mind.  I was fearless — and I created memories from that experience that will always be with me.  (There was never an altercation of any kind.)
I remember when my wife and I were in Bermuda.  We rented a moped (of course, you can’t rent a car there!), and we rode double all over the island.  We would drive along the main highway, see a road off the left or right, and just take it for no other reason than wanting to see more of the way people in Bermuda lived.
Taking the long way home, however, is more than just a physical experience; it is a mental concept.  That is, it is like a philosophy or approach to life  that can serve as a motivating force, a stimulator, or inspiration.  It is more than just physically exploring areas off the beaten track.  When reading, it is going beyond the printed page.  When researching, it is going beyond the obvious information.  When thinking, it is thinking outside the box.  It is like a creative challenge or a summons to act differently.
A number of years ago now, I gave a speech titled, “And Then Some.”  It was published in Vital Speeches of the Day.  You can actually view this speech at this website and, the and then some philosophy (discussed in the speech) became the benchmark or touchstone for our publishing company, And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.  The and then some philosophy dovetails nicely with the ideas expressed in this essay, for if you truly pursue the and then some philosophy, it often requires taking the long way home.
So the simple question becomes, how do you take the long way home?  The answer lies, in part, in what Dale Carnegie said at the outset of this essay, “enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”  It means taking longer, observing more, experiencing further, thinking deeper, and, in all cases, appreciating wholeheartedly.  It may even mean getting outside of ourselves and becoming immersed in the world around us.  Taking the long way home is pursuing life — and then some!
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At Zenhabits, Leo Babauta has a short, interesting, and worthwhile essay, “6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Get the Most Out of Life,” in which he asks questions such as why do I love?, am I pursuing my dream?, am I doing something worthwhile?, and several more.

At Life Coaches Blog, Shelley Stile has a delightful essay, “Getting the most out of life” (October 10, 2007), in which she discusses our control over ourselves, the necessity of taking charge of our lives, getting in touch with our passions, honoring ourselves, and mapping out what we need to do today to get what we want.

SoulSeeker writes “9 Secrets for Getting the Most Out of Life” at the web site “o5:Recipes for Life,” where the nine short items are: 1) Love your body, 2) Embrace experience, 3) See life as a process, 4) Don’t let fear rule your life, 5) Don’t be afraid of pain, 6) Just do it, 7) “There” is no better than “here,” 8) Take charge of your fate, and 9) You become what you think.
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Copyright May, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.



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