on honoring what's essential

This is what happens when you have amazing friends who love you and want to support your spontaneous side in their own planned way. They show up while you are watering your flowers on Friday evening, and they are wearing pink pajamas and jump out of the car and announce, “Slumber party!” They whisk you 45 minutes north where you spend the next few days playing cards and imagining plots for B movies and talking about where your lives are headed.

I spent Saturday morning daydreaming in a hammock, casting the conversation of the previous night against bird calls and clouds. When I choose nature over the rest of life, it always seems to end up that the rest of life is small by comparison. Even the craziest idea for social change, or the greatest frustration with systemic shortcomings, or disappointment in political gridlock fades back against a forest of white pine and birch trees.

And I wonder, is this escapism, or is it a return to what’s most essential?

If I bought a small piece of land, built a little house, and lived a life that honored only what’s most essential (in my understanding of it), would I be more or less ignorant? Would I be more or less connected to my neighbors? Would I be more or less contributing to change?

I am not sure. I am not suggesting that I would completely unplug. In my view of what’s essential, I would still do work that connects to the bigger picture — that’s just who I am. But I suppose doing what’s essential means doing only the best and most authentic work, the work most aligned with your purpose and with a high potential to benefit from your unique contributions.

(And I should clarify that “work” has one connotation traditionally, but I use it as a placeholder that ignores the lines of the professional and the personal. I think of “work” as an expression of your purpose and truest self, whether it is writing poetry or leading a social change movement or gardening. For me, it is a combination of traditional paid work, like consulting, and craft-type work, like writing.)

So if people got to what is most authentic and essential, what would happen? Maybe first a shift in priorities. And priorities work like fallen logs in a river; the energy flows differently as soon as they are lodged. So where would the energy go? Would getting to the most essential parts of living and working mean a kind of willful ignorance, or would it mean an attempt to focus and nurture only the best, most potential-rich parts?

Put another way: If you said no to one thing today and said yes with more intention and attention to something else, what would happen?