dropThe lyrics from Gary Jules’ rendition of Mad World are eerily haunting. The second verse sadly intones the plight of “worn out faces” of people “going nowhere”—of “children waiting for [their birthdays]—the day they feel good…”. This lamentation resonates with so many. Who hasn’t often declared, “I can’t wait till…”, or “just a couple more days, then…”? We can’t wait to be 16 and get our driver’s licenses. 10 more minutes till break. 47 days till Christmas. We long for the workday to be over. We eagerly anticipate the “special” event. We would forfeit this particular measure of our lives to “fast forward” to something better. Why? Because the present tends to be tedious. Even in an unprecedented age of electronic, digital entertainment and a proliferation of countless pastimes and amusements, “boredom” seems to be a disease that is epidemic—especially among the young.


Thoreau said that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” If this be true, what is it that makes us so desperate? Is life so unappealing and meaningless that we feel compelled to hasten through it to moments of pleasure that can make us feel, and give our lives some measure of significance?

It has been said that people live their lives as either a tourist, or a traveler. It appears to me that most are tourists. A tourist is not interested in the space and time between where they are and their destination. Vacation hasn’t begun till they’re there. The trip there is only a necessary evil. The potential destinations along the way hold no interest.

The traveler, on the other hand, also looks forward to the “main event” destination—but they are also interested in the process of getting there. These might steer clear of the airport non-stop in favor of a many-stop trek over an old state road, populated with diners, old town squares, gravel roads, and regular people. These are more likely to notice things and people that others miss because the rest are in a hurry to “get there.”

The same observations may be made about life in general. We seek for something yet to come. To live in the moment is insufferable. Because the quality, reward, stimulation, and meaning of our days is so wanting, we yearn for the “specialness” of vacations, holidays, events, and the like. Nothing makes product fly off the shelves better than the accompanying promise: “New and Improved!” We want that. We like that—and we’re willing to pay for it. Discontent in the present and longing for better days sells lottery tickets and attracts people to countless religions and “self-help” gimmicks.

I am learning how to be a traveler. I don’t want to “wish my life away.” “Now” is where I want to be. If, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, we’re really not engaged with our lives. This “disagreeable” thing may contain a priceless value and we won’t see it because we were anxiously looking past it to a future we really can’t know and over which we have little to no control.

It isn’t only in the “sweet-bye-and-bye-apple-pie-in-the-sky” that a person may experience the longed-for joys. Jesus Christ told us that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” —Luke 17:21b

What is necessary is the change, not of circumstance, but of us. To have the eyes to see and the ears to hear what has been near all along.

Some years ago I created this art as an expression of this lesson applied.

A Tangled Wood Something beautiful to me, that I almost missed!

A Tangled Wood
Something beautiful to me, that I almost missed!

Tangled

I walked along a shrouded path
remote from all my pain.
‘Neath canopies of verdant green
washed clean by recent rains.

I almost missed a tangled mass
of wildly groping wood.
Whose aimless chaos well bespoke
confusion where I stood.

Yet, looking closer through the veil,
a beauty there I see.
The tangled wood emerged in time
a work of art to me!

—T.A.Pack