I recently read an amazing book called No Impact Man. It’s about a guy named Colin Beaven who lives in New York City and goes off the grid and lives, well, with no impact. For him and his family it’s no electricity, no subway, trains, plains, local food only…the list goes on.
It’s cool to follow along with his thought process as he slowly comes to realize that when he starts to have less and less, his life feels more full and more rewarding. For instance, instead of watching TV after work, he and his wife were forced to go to the park with their daughter or play games, which brought their family closer together.
There was one particular event in the book that really struck a chord with me, especially as I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of living in the present lately. Colin was out with his 4 year old daughter doing some errands (on foot of course) and suddenly, while still quite far from home, it started to downpour. His first instinct (as is the instinct of 99% of New Yorkers walking in the rain) was to hail a cab or hit the subway as soon as possible. It’s a mindset that we constantly have a destination, whether it be a physical place or an end goal, and the unpleasant commute to get to that destination is simply an accepted necessity and must be tolerated and quickly gotten over with.
Acting quickly, Colin hurried to put up the umbrella and just as he got the umbrella over their heads, his daughter started to cry. Thinking it was of course the rain that was causing her to cry, or that she was cold and wet, he momentarily put down the umbrella to do up her coat. But when the rain poured down on his daughter again, she started to laugh! He realized that it wasn’t the rain that was making her cry, it was the umbrella stopping the rain that was causing the problem.
So he had this sort of revelation on the sidewalk during a rainstorm in New York. Immediately he ran over and jumped in a puddle, then called his daughter to do the same. In all the years previous to his experiment, it was just assumed that it was important to get out of the rain; that it was simply a nuisance that disrupted tight schedules. But his 4 year old daughter made him realize there can be a lot of value and joy found in all those things we sometimes shrug off. Colin and his daughter walked in the rain and jumped in the puddles the entire way home.
Here’s a quote from Colin Beaven that sums up his experience:
“At what age did I start to think that where I was going was more
important than where I already was? When was it that I began to
believe that the most important thing about what I was doing was
getting it over with? Knowing how to live is not something we have to
teach children. Knowing how to live is something we have to be careful
not to take away from them.”
— Colin Beavan
Suppose we do in fact spend a lot of time thinking about the future, about the destination rather than the journey. Maybe living in the present means taking all those repetitive tasks that we do while thinking about our future destination, and instead consciously embracing them as fun challenges. For the most part, everything can be made to be enjoyable, it’s all a matter of perspective.
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
– Abraham Lincoln