Several years ago I took a long road trip. I took Annie Dillard along in a book on CD. I listened for hours as the “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” revealed wonderful discoveries she made while living for months in a cabin by herself in southern Virginia. I have very fond memories of that trip as I remember all the stories she shared in the book.
But, what I don’t have memory of is the road trip itself. That is, I don’t remember anything about the scenery along the road in Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. I don’t remember the temperature because I was cocooned in my Audi. I don’t remember where I stopped and ate. I have no sense of how long it took me to get where I was going. The only thing I do remember about the road trip was the Texas State Police pulling me over because I was going too fast. But, nothing else.
Looking back on that experience, I am glad I listened to the book. It has enriched my life. But, I am troubled by how this might become a practice—being absorbed in something apart from where I am. It is very easy to avoid life where we are living by being drawn into other places outside ourselves. Murray Schafer has called this “schizophonia”. This represents a dislocation between what we see and what we hear.
Now it is one thing to make choices to do this. It is another to assume that this is the norm for living. Because, it seems to me that while we can enjoy life apart from where we are, we might miss some powerful experiences in our life because we are not paying attention to being here and now in this one place. We may miss our children’s growing up even when we spend time in the same house with them if we and they are always engaged in relationships a part from those around us.
Maybe what is important is to examine our lives and determine what is most important at any given time rather than simply allowing ourselves to be distracted from our life.