Questions and answers: The journey

From the time I was a small child, I knew with great certainty what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I was going to be a lawyer. My father was a lawyer and that just seemed like the right sort of thing to be.


My vision of life in the law provided me with direction to my life - well, direction for maybe three years.


It was at that point that I discovered my true vocation - my one great direction in life. I would become a veterinarian. After all, I really loved animals and it would be super cool to help them. But then, about two years into my youthful journey toward veterinary medicine, a scratch from an frightened rabbit combined with a strong dose of parental and societal expectations helped me to find my really, really, one true destination: human medicine.


Yes, I would become a doctor! This goal led me to study science in school and then in University. It motivated me to work hard to get the good marks I would need to get admitted to medical school. And it led me to volunteer in a hospital where I discovered that, well, very sick people are pretty unpleasant to be around. Actually, they can be a bit scary. 


And, of course, it was at this point that my true life's goal became apparent. I would pursue scientific research. 


The story may be getting a bit predictable by now...  That life direction guided me for a while and then shifted to the one true direction - business! A few years later, I found myself in theological school, training to become a Unitarian Universalist minister.


In every one of these phases, there were great moments. There were times when the destination I set out before myself drew me forward and provided a real and solid and even inspiring organisation to my life's journey. There were also times of tremendous frustration - times when, if I was honest, I asked myself "what the heck am I doing?" 


Some of these goals have been better than others, of course, and I'm happy to say that my present journey has been the best one of all.


It would be a mistake to conclude that where we aim our lives is of no importance. A goal, a destination, a vision - these are energising forces that can drive us forward, help us plan, help us imagine a long-term view into the future. 


And it does matter what we plan. One plan is not the same as the next. Some destinations are a better fit than others for an individual, for a place, and for a point in time. Destinations are important, but not as important was what happens along the way. 


Along the way to my various destinations, I fell in love, I got married, we had a wonderful child, I had friends, I helped people and was helped by them. I moved to this strange land... 

Life is lived along the way. It is not lived in its endpoints: our beginning and our dreamed-of destinations.


As Rabbi Alvin Fine's suggests in the poem we heard earlier, life truly have only one certain destination, and that is not necessarily one we steer towards - it is death. As far as we know - stories of vampires and other immortals notwithstanding - we are all headed for that single exit door. Our time in this life is limited and since some people do manage to avoid taxes, the only real certainty in life is death.


What matters is the journey between the two endpoints of birth and death and the quality of our travelling. 


I told Kaliska's story earlier. Kaliska was lucky. Her chosen destination of drew her to a very different and truer destination - the ability to change lives around her for the better.


The story of Odysseus, to which C.P. Cavafy refers in his poem Ithaca, was one of a frustrated journey toward home - toward Ithaca. All along the way, there were obstacles - frustrations - tragedies. 


It is, Cavafy tells us, the journey that matters. On arriving at Ithaca, or medical school, or the scientific laboratory, or the executive office, or even the pulpit, we find there a kind of emptiness. Ithaca has nothing to give you that you have not gained in your journey.


Don't have your sights so fixed on the goal that you miss the journey.


Don't have your eyes so distracted by the journey that you are not drawn forward by something greater.


Travel on toward what is great.


Knowing that wonders surround and bless you.