At that Hay House Conference I mentioned in entry #80, I enjoyed the pleasure of several deeply satisfying conversations with others in attendance. But perhaps the most enlightening exchange occurred in the hotel cab-car on my way back to San Francisco International Airport. I remarked to the driver what a beautiful day it was, and he agreed, and then, in what seemed to me to be a slightly India-inflected accent, he asked me where I was headed. When I told him Victoria, BC, he just lit up. “Oh, you Canadians are very proud of your country. Forty years ago, I was backpacking with some Canadians, and they were always bragging about Canada. Very friendly. Very friendly people.” I told him it was my wife who was the Canadian, and that yes, they were very friendly and yes, it’s a country that’s certainly worth being proud of —– and then, because his face had lit up so brightly, something inside compelled me to ask about his wanderlust of long ago.
“Seems like you really enjoyed backpacking around” I ventured. “Oh, it was the best time of my life!” he shot back. Absolutely! – Of course, marrying my wife, yes, and my two children, of course, but traveling was the best! I love to travel. – What was it Mark Twain said — ‘To travel is to live and to live is to travel’ -? Oh yes, that was the best!” His joy was contagious, and I wanted more. “Where all did you go?” I asked him. “Oh, Japan, China, Indonesia – you name it. Japan was my favorite. You could – I had a contact in Japan, never met this family, never met them, called them and told them I was coming – when I got to the airport there I called them, and they came and got me and I stayed in their home the entire time. – Spent over a year in China the same way.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “That had to be amazing!” “It was” he replied. “But…” – and here I heard the first trace of sadness in his voice, “But now you can’t do those kinds of things. Too dangerous…too dangerous…”
Now, I love to travel too, and I understood what he was implying about the modern world somehow being fundamentally different from previous generations in the sense of what is safe and what isn’t anymore, and it made me sad to feel that way. So I thought about it a minute and then I asked him, “Why do you think that is? I mean, it’s certainly everyone’s perception that, say, even though I played outside all day long as a kid with no adult supervision, I could never let my children go unattended like that now, but is that really a reality, or is it just a perception — or a misperception?” – And I never will forget what he said next. He said, “There’s too much noise nowadays. People have lost touch with God.”
“Lost touch – ?” I stammered. “Yes!” he continued. They’ve lost their connection to nature. I’m not even a religious man, but all this materialism – people are plugged in to their things instead of each other. Don’t get me wrong, the United States is the greatest country in the world, but people have lost touch. Look around you –”…
We were almost at the airport drop-off now. I tried to think of something to bring the conversation back around to its original optimism. I said, “Well, you know how a mother in childbirth is in great pain and distress before giving birth to a new life – do you think maybe all this disconnection is just part of something we’ve got to go through as a world before something new can be born? That maybe the world had to lose the God we had before we could connect with a deeper and better understanding?” “Maybe that’s it” he responded with a shrug. “I hope so. My sons…your sons are still young. My sons were great until they turned twelve. We did everything together. Spend as much time with yours as you can now, because once they start playing the video games…” His voice trailed off, and I got out, and we introduced our names to each other and gave each other a warm handshake, and then Asmahl went back to the Westin Hotel at Market Street and I got on a United flight bound for Vancouver Island…
Something about how this guy – without a PhD or great wealth or even much conscious thought – nailed what so many I meet are continually wrestling with (whether in the back of their minds or the hidden corners of their hearts) has stayed with me ever since. Something about how he’d linked materialism, and NOISE, and the lack of connection to nature, with the loss of GOD — without being religious about it at all…And suddenly it hits me all over again: Silence is the ‘language’ of ‘God’. Nature is the visual expression of that Source. And therefore NO WONDER the constant cacophony of commerce, and the loss of the night sky as lesser city lights conceal its majesty, and everything else we take for progress in this day and age has simultaneously served to cut us off from an experience of self and community which we never used to think twice about! No wonder we’ve lost the natural grace to extend or receive hospitality from a stranger. No wonder we’re afraid of our own lives! We’ve cut ourselves off from being able to hear or see the life of our own Spirit — We’ve lost touch!
’Inner Fitness’ produces (and requires) a mindset and a heart-set and a habit-set that refuses to remain in a state of ‘lost touch’. That prioritizes connection over cacophony and commerce. I don’t know how humanity will find a way back to a knowledge of its greater heritage. But going forward, ‘til next time, no matter how we must begin again, let us all resolve…to refuse to lose…touch.