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    Coastal Excursions and Taking the Easy Way Out

    If there were no reward to reap,
    No loving embrace to see me through,
    This tedious path I've chosen here,
    I certainly would've walked away by now…
    If there were no desire to heal,
    A damaged and broken man along
    This tedious path I've chosen here,
    I certainly would've walked away by now…
    Be patient.
    I must keep reminding myself of this… 

    -Tool, The Patient

                 Last week in Northern California a thirty-five-year-old man was driving drunk and recklessly at night on a two-lane motorway.  He was speeding and overtaking cars ahead of him, crossing over the double-yellow lines.  A vehicle traveling the other direction was being driven by a twenty-two-year-old female college student, who was returning to Sonoma after attending a family dinner.  The drunk driver collided with the girl and she died in the accident.  The drunk driver survived and was taken to jail and is now facing murder charges, and most likely will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

                Although intoxication-induced tragedies occur regularly, they speak to an ongoing theme amongst humanity that is as historical as it is universal: our fallibility as individuals.  We are the accumulation of our actions, and each decision we make can add or subtract from the meaningfulness and completeness of our lives.  If we are prone to vice and give in too often to bad habits, we increase the probability that we may squander our lives a physical or mental prison.  Each day humans knowingly make choices that lead to the demise of themselves, each other, or the natural world.  As one who has himself often failed to make the right choices in order to reach my full potential, I understand that we are highly susceptible to taking the easy way out.  But the easy way is often the less stimulating and constructive way, and leads to a life rife with regrets and guilt.  On a grander scale, taking the easy way out could translate into taking actions deleterious to entire nations or ecosystems, and result in the destruction of humanity and nature.  All too often it seems that in our individual and collective lives we are walking dangerously close to the edge, and that even in the good times the monkey’s off our backs but the circus is still in town.  

                As with our personal lives, if our species is going to reach our maximum potential filled with meaningfulness and beauty, we cannot take the easy way out.  At the current rate of environmental destruction, saber-rattling, and war-mongering, it’s unlikely that we will make it very far down the road to collective success.  If we continue to make the wrong choices and fail to do the work that needs to be done, we may indeed end up confined to a cell or dead as victims of our own undoing.  In effort to avoid making the mistake of embarking down the wrong road, a useful exercise is to occasionally imagine what we would lose if we were to falter in life or as a species.  I sometimes try to think about what I would lose if I were to fail in achieving my objectives.  Beyond the betrayal to myself and my family, in my mental exercises I try to imagine the implications of losing my freedom to no longer enjoy the outdoors.  Never again would I be able to see the colors of the twilight - the orange and blue bands which paint the purple sky, the rising craterous moon and the black silhouette of urchin trees which stand against the backdrop of space.  Never again would I hear the song of the crickets and frogs as awakening bats and owls swoop through indigo skies, nor see a night sky festooned with shimmering stars and meteors skiving against the atmosphere of this miraculous planet.  On the individual level and collective levels there is so much to lose if we fail to live up to our potential, and so much to gain if we fulfill it.  How beautiful this world is, how vast the range of lifeforms which have evolved and perished throughout the span of time on Earth.  99.9 percent of species that have ever existed have gone extinct.  We'll get there soon enough, there's no reason to expedite our seemingly inevitable demise.  Our species is like the drunk driver, exacerbating through intoxication the already dangerous activity of driving.  If only we could only ease off the pedal, tap on the brakes, put down the bottle – rest and little and sober up – we may be able to make this incredible ride last longer for ourselves and all others that we share the road with. 

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