The door of the boxcar of the train was wide open and loomed dark and inviting only 50 yards from where I was asleep in my sleeping bag in a cotton field behind a convenience store under the stars in Delta, Louisiana at about 2 AM. The field had been partially ploughed and the dry, empty nubs of the cotton plants poked through the earth all around me as a testament to the agricultural roots of the South. The night was incredibly still after the train slowly lumbered to a stop and waited silently for me like a promise of the unknown. I had walked across the bridge of the mighty Mississippi River at Vicksburg the night before and had limped to the first exit off the highway and found the nearest field to fall down into, exhausted with sores covering my feet inside the walking boots I had bought at a sporting goods store only a few days before. I had barely enough energy to fumble with the straps of my sleeping bag and get it laid out on the soft ground of the field before I fell asleep exhausted from my first day of the trip.
I was in my early 20’s on summer break from college and I was on a walkabout for the next few months through the back roads of the south for no reason that I consciously understood. My mom had dropped me off the day before beside the open road of Interstate Highway 20 and had said goodbye. My whole body ached from the previous day’s trek and the sores on my feet were incredibly painful as I looked at that silent boxcar and wondered what I should do. Soon after, the decision was made for me when the train started moving again, heading back in the direction from where I came. The rusted wheels of each boxcar squealed and protested their call to action as the train slowly accelerated and boxcar after boxcar and eventually disappeared into the night.
I was at a choice point and I didn’t fully understand all the implications, but I knew I just had to keep walking. The train was going back in the direction of home and I knew I couldn’t go back. I knew that I just had to keep going even though my body was sore and tired and my feet were covered in blisters. I will never know what would have happened if I had taken that train, but I do know that the next day as I kept walking down the road, the profound joy of being alive settled deep into my bones as I took step after step. This feeling stayed with me for the next few months as I traveled the back roads of the south and experienced the silence of my own company and the goodness of the people that I met along the way. As I kept walking and as the miles slipped underneath my feet, my energy continued to build to a more powerful level that sustained a natural high and a feeling of profound happiness that lasted for the duration of the journey.
This joy of being alive is still with me on some level and always has been. When I am quiet and release the cares and concerns of my busy life, this joy calls to me like an ancient siren from the depths of my soul reminding me of who I am as a child of God. This joy has a subtle but profound influence on every choice I make and reminds me to always look for the goodness in myself and in my fellow human beings and to trust the divine wisdom I can always find in people behind the masks of our fears and our ego-driven behavior regardless of surface appearances.
As a country we are also at a choice point as our new president is inaugurated. There are unprecedented protests across the country shown by the massive turnout in rallies nationwide. Regardless of political affiliation and regardless of whether or not they support the current administration, United States citizens everywhere are standing up for what they believe and are waking up to the responsibility we all have to contribute to our society and try to make our world a better place. While many people are acutely afraid of the contentious direction our political process has taken and are concerned that some leaders we have chosen are unenlightened and divisive, our current political turmoil reminds me of the angst of a preteen going through the confusion and instability of adolescence who is trying to wake up to adulthood and better understand the consequences of their choices.
As a society we are going through the unpredictability and volatility of puberty in our development as a culture. The vortex of our collective desire to make our nation better is getting stronger as we are waking up to a greater clarity as a people. While we may make many poor choices through the process, overall, citizens of our nation are developing a greater awareness of the issues, and as we collectively experience the consequences of our choices, we are driven to think more deeply about our decisions and we are becoming more mature and wiser through the process.
We are at a choice point, just like my young adult self, looking at that empty boxcar in a cotton field in Delta Louisiana at 2 AM. While I don’t know where our wild and stormy political process is taking us, I continue to feel the deep joy of being alive as I continue to look past the mask of the fears and the ego-driven behaviors of ourselves and our leaders to the deep goodness and humanity and divine wisdom that is within every citizen of our country and is at the heart of every human being. I continue to trust in the goodness of human nature, and I know that however any of my fellow citizens voted in this past election, I trust their good intentions and their desire to make this country a better place, even if they voted differently from me.
Through the turbulence of our political process, I feel the consciousness of our nation awakening to a more mature understanding of the implications of our choices. I see our nation starting to learn from our successes and our mistakes. I feel the strengthening power of the vortex of our collective desire to make our country and our world a better place. Regardless of their political affiliation, I trust in the goodness of humanity to eventually bring our nation, our politics, and our world to a better place.
Even though I will never know what would have happened if I had jumped on that boxcar in the middle of the night, I don’t regret my choice and I know that I simply have to keep walking. With every step I take, I continue to feel the deep joy of being alive grow within me like a beacon, and every day I see divine wisdom reflected back to me through the faces of the beings around me. I know that behind the mask of our fears and our egos are simply people doing the best we can and I trust this process to bring us to a better place as a nation even if I don’t always understand what the future will hold.