I have a quote taped to the wall in front of my computer. I don’t remember where I found it. It says “Run Towards the Volcano”.
I was initially attracted to it because it is so counterintuitive. I aspire to be counterintuitive, but often my thinking leans towards conservative. It might be the eight years of schooling influence with nuns and priests, but I have had plenty of time to adapt and I haven’t. Yet.
A few years back I worked with a client at a large foundation. One day, she told me, “Rick, people are sheep.” I laughed. It was a good line. Then on the walk back to the ferry for home, I thought “She’s talking about me.”
Sheep herd. Sheep conform. These days, for good reasons, herding and conforming make a hell of a lot of sense. We herd and conform when we keep social distance, wear masks, work from home and wash our hands 25 times a day. It seems likely we will be doing this herding and conforming for a long time.
Running towards a volcano is more than a metaphor. It advocates taking a disputable course of action. My view is that Covid-19 is not just a spreading virus, it is germinating volcanoes. My volcanoes begin as questions: What is the essential work I need to be doing? Do I want to live on the west coast when my daughter lives in Brooklyn? What have I not dared to do? What about the book I claim I will write?
I know I am not alone in asking these types of questions. I hear them in assorted forms from people on all the Zoom calls I join in quarantine. These questions come direct and opaque; some questions reflect fear and anxiety and other questions are based in hope and optimism.
Honestly answering these questions is bound to lead to some disputable actions based on my history and conservative track record. For all the awful damage the virus is producing, I am working myself to the place of seeing all this as a pathway to personal freedom. I am not there yet, but I know I am moving that direction. Peter Koestenbaum reminds us that “The agony of the change itself is the discovery that it is all up to me, that I must live my life myself and in my own way, and that this is an insight of glory and not despair.” The Greeks call this ‘Kairo’, the exact point of transformation.
Transformation is happening all around us. Transformation is happening to us. Choose your own volcano of transformation and run towards it. Then you will experience what Joseph Campbell calls “the actual experience of being alive”.