We all know that the journey is more important than the destination and if we think otherwise we must suck at life, but there are many parts of the journey I happily would’ve skipped in favor of a straight shot to the destination.
One such example is when I got food poisoning from the “nice” resort hotel we stayed at on Inle Lake in Myanmar. We treated ourselves to a dinner at their fancy lodge and they treated me with tangy french fries… which apparently means the grease went bad*. It treated me badly for the next week… and treated me badly multiple times on the plane ride to Bagan.
I didn’t enjoy that journey and it helps explains why I looked like this in Bagan ->
In this instance, I was happy to come back to my “healthy” self a few weeks after the food poisoning. However, it’s much more fun to think about how we’ll be different people when we come back from a journey such as that… but journeys, just like life, aren’t linear as we always circle back to who we are.
We like to think life can be a straight line progression that follows a set timeline built of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and year. Education follows a similar path as we “progress” through the different grades and levels of school. We start at point A and we end at Point F, thereby “progressing” simply by moving from A to F, even if it didn’t change us.
Working our way through a linear progression doesn’t always mean progress. Journeys are circular and life is circular as we always come back to “who” or “where” we were.
We traveled the world in 2013 and visited five continents and 25 countries, but in the end, we came back to where we started. We were changed in numerous ways, but we didn’t morph into new and unrecognizable creatures**.
That didn’t stop everyone from asking us how the trip changed us. I think we’ve seen too many inspirational (and fake) movies like Eat, Pray, Love where a change on the inside should be as obvious as a change on the outside.
Since we moved to Utah, I’ve grown my hair longer, so does that mean Utah has changed me?
Speaking of Utah, we like to attend archaeological and cultural discussions in our new town. While most of the topics are far over my head, I did take an interesting tidbit which led me to this post. The speaker explained how most Native Americans view time as circular, rather than linear. Then I googled that topic and found this info which reinforced that point:
“The modern view of reality is based in straight lines and angles. When someone goes somewhere or gives directions, the method of orientation is based on ‘straight ahead’, ‘turn left’ and ‘turn right’. But Nature doesn’t work that way, and neither does the traditional person. Everything in Nature goes in curves and circles, and the same is true about our going about.” –Distant Eagle
This linear thinking has caused nearly unreachable expectations in our lives. We think we should be able to follow this straight line path to become the “next great thing” or the new and improved version of ourselves. We start down our new paths of adventure, but when our circle brings us back to once again find ourselves, we’re disappointed to see the same ugly mug in the mirror.
Even more interestingly, when people are lost in the woods with no recognizable visual cues (such as a mountain) or if someone is blindfolded, our natural path is circular. When our bodies are in control and our mind has no reference points, we walk in circles even when we think we’re walking in a straight line.
Maybe this circular instinct is our mind’s way of keeping us from getting too crazy or venturing too far away. Although many ancient cultures were nomadic, they usually had a range of areas they’d visit based on the seasons – just like geese or whales that follow the same circular path every season. Human nomadic lives were circular just like the animals.
This leaves an open question in my mind: is the “circular” journey the natural path we should allow to happen, or should we fight the “natural” path to instead follow a linear progression to our goals?
When we write down our goals, they’re more apt to happen, just the same as if we follow a map with a compass on a journey. Linear progressions might lead us to more change, but the natural path is circular.
I’m going to leave this here for now as I feel like I’m walking in circles, but I’ll surely revisit this idea at some point. In the mean time, I’d love to here your thoughts on circular versus linear in the comments below or email.
*I can’t be the only one who didn’t know “tangy” french fries meant imminent death, right? I ate them all without any clue of what was about to happen to me!
**Some would question this point, but I’d argue I was always strange before, so their point is not relevant