Your letter came to me at the best of times, two days ago.
My wife had left the house with the children for a play day at the park. The sky was finally clear after weeks of cloud. I settled down to read it in the sun which came through the window in the back room. You know the one. It was where we talked through the night over whiskey after the rest of the guests went home that one Christmas season. This is something I have seldom had the time to do since starting my new job. And as you know, children are a handful.
In response, I believe you are mostly correct. I agree with most of what you’ve written. Your fictional response of mine regarding distractions was entirely correct. I would indeed insist on investigating something while in a precarious situation even if it ended up bringing one to their death eventually. Why? Because that’s where we are going anyway, are we not? No, I don’t wish to speed up the process. Living is good despite all of its hardship, that much we have established already, so I won’t get into that. Rather it is human nature to be distracted and to investigate. We know that we are resilient creatures and so we go forth into the unknown.
What you didn’t mention was our capacity to panic.
Often, panic sets in without our being fully aware of it. Panic itself is a distraction as it threatens to steer us away from the correct path. What Nansen and Johansen had going for them was their ability to not panic. Likely, it was that they were well fed and hydrated. They also had a clear goal in mind. It wasn’t just making camp that got them out of the arctic and back to Norway. It was the fact that they had a clear destination in mind.
For those who have no clear destination or goal, panic finds an easy home. Luckily for me my life became more focused a couple years ago, but, as you know, it wasn’t always so. It took patience of a kind I thought I was incapable of. And when the days went by and still I was uncertain, alone and lost, I got more and more used to the state of my life. Patience in this case was learning how to get used to pain. In those years I certainly did make camp as you describe. I wasn’t an arctic explorer, but like many young men of our time I was stuck on a foggy, dark, and damp path with no foreseeable end.
My current situation may very well be on the evening of a great storm. Surely, you are perceptive enough to know that much. Just when some semblance of stability settled into my life matters took a turn toward chaos. Your advice to make camp, to follow the example of Nansen, seems the only logical strategy. But in order to make camp one must be in the soundest of mental health. Would you not agree? It may be that if one decides to make camp to begin with, they must be in sound mental health because they didn’t press on in denial of their situation. Sometimes the hardest decisions, like stopping for rest, appear as some kind of weakness. The man who is afraid of appearing weak will never make these types of decisions. He cannot make these decisions as it is against his disposition–that of trying to appear strong at all times means he is a weak man at heart. However, his efforts are aimed properly. They are also aimed recklessly.
You are correct. I certainly need to rest.
I must say however that since Sunday, the night of the lunar eclipse, everything feels different, in a good way. I know you will raise your eyebrows here and say: “feels different?” I appreciate your skepticism. I will explain as briefly as I can.
It has been my experience (and I’m sure many others) that our lives progress in marked periods–a series of cycles. Time is cyclical. Therefore not only is our life part of this cycle, but events in our lives are part of this cycle. We may go through a rough patch, but it too must come to an end giving way to something else. Now, it could be an even rougher patch, or it could be deliverance into what you phrased as greener pastures. Thought of in this cyclical manner I can tell you that the lunar eclipse marked the end of one period and the beginning of another.
With that said, there is a practice one should adopt when entering a new cycle. It’s no joke. One should think of oneself as a pathfinder in their own life. Not a light responsibility by any means. We are essentially talking about the same thing when you write about making your way down the path toward the water as Nansen did, and making camp. Sometimes when one enters a new cycle, digging in is the best option. Other times a full frontal assault is needed, or even more complex, a combination of the two. As it depends on the situation at hand, none of these approaches come out as superior. It’s up to the person, the actor, to determine that. As to how to come to this position-decision, well that is another matter entirely. Perhaps you could enlighten me at another time. Or maybe I will be in a better position to let you know as this next cycle plays itself out. But any wisdom you have on the subject, I’m all ears, or eyes rather. That is if I am reading your response and not listening to you.