Living in the future at present

/ Friday, 10 September 2010 / CanadaNorth AmericaOntarioPreparation & Thoughts

This has been on my mind since I was passing through Kelowna, BC, way back in May of this year but I haven’t been able to articulate it properly. I’m not saying that how I’m doing it now is the right way either, but my brain is getting full of thoughts and I need to purge. It’s been bothering me about how much time people that I’ve encountered are spending so much time thinking about the future instead of the present day. It’s easier said than done, as most find it easier to hope for change, wish for a different situation, or bide their time until an in place plan comes to fruition.

One of the most common phrases to come out of peoples mouths was that they “wish” they could do something like me, drop everything, and do something that they’ve always wanted to do, or go and see the sights of another country. When I query them “Why Not?” – the reply that I receive back is that they were waiting for something to come their way, were too busy, or they didn’t have the courage to do it. I can understand the third comment, but not the other two.

I reflect upon a conversation I had with someone who I hold dear to my life about well being, health and happiness a couple weeks before I left on this trip. One topic that came up was my concern for them working too much, falling back into a pattern of an old destructive habit of the sleep-eat-work cycle, leaving little to no time for themselves to rest properly and seek leisure time without extreme fatigue setting in hampering their efforts for activities.

The cycle was all too familiar to me, as I was caught in the loop for such a long time, constantly struggling to find a way to get myself out of it. I eventually hit my wall, crashed hard, self destructing finally climbing out of the wreckage starting this bicycle ride around the world. The reply from the loved one was that they had lots of things they wanted to do, and see in their life, but were going to wait until they had reached the age of retirement. They had lots of hobbies that interested them, but no time to spend on them at present. I struggled with this comment – as what is retirement – 65?That is years away to plan for – Is 65 a realistic goal for retirement for most people anymore? With most peoples lifestyles these days I would find it hard to believe they are going to be able to retire at 65 and be able to support themselves financially for the remainder of their time one earth – another 20 years or more!

My argument to this comment was this – Why not take the time now, slow down in life and focus on a bit of you for a while and learn some of these hobbies now? It’ll detach you from the regular everyday stresses that you are faced with, and if and when you do retire, you’ll have the fundamentals or more under your belt to continue forward with your hobby, rather than waiting till you have all the time in the world, yet becoming frustrated when something doesn’t go right/you don’t understand a certain part of this hobby you want to take up. You’ve likely heard the stories of people who have retired at 65, and went back to work about 3 months later due to sheer boredom or frustration with their life, and I certainly don’t want to see that happen to anyone I know. It was met with confusion, and it may have looked that I was trying to tell someone how to live their life, yet my intentions were truly to see that they were healthy, able to achieve all their dreams in an effective manner, and to make time for themselves.

I finally asked, “what’s  your hobby now?” – a question that was asked of me by a close friend in early 2009. The same answer that I said came out of their mouth: “Work is my hobby, I take pride in what I do, and I feel a sense of accomplishment, I’ve spent alot of time building myself up to this point in time and don’t want to be the best I can in my field”. The person who posed the question for me hung that answer out in front of me many times to ensure I remembered it clearly while I was getting ready for my big life shift – I didn’t want work to be my life, was money the reward for putting myself through stress, not being able to sleep for days at a time, constantly a few degrees under boiling point not being able to cool down before the next bomb was dropped in my path? So I left it all. I’ve said it before: I’m not sure if what I’m doing is the right thing overall, but today, it feels right. I’ll worry about things that happen tomorrow tomorrow. Sure, I can have hopes, and wishes and dreams – and the way I accomplish those things is to say I’m going to do it. Once I commit, I have a hard time not following through – it’s a sense of reliability that has been ingrained in me since an early age.

Anyways, the point of this all was to relay some of the struggles I’m constantly seeing with people I meet along the way – a society in flux seeking huge change in their life, but either afraid, or unaware how to take that next step, people too busy and caught up in what has to be done later in the day as opposed to their true happiness now.

I think about my doctor who 3 years ago when I came to him speaking of insomnia told me that ‘If you focus on 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep and 8 hours prayer/family you will have no more stresses in your life’. I laughed, but kept it in the back of my head. 2 years afterwards he told me the same thing, and he was right. If you don’t have family, how about just you yourself? If you don’t have prayer, how about read a DIY book?. Go for a walk? Go do something crazy – like ride a bike around the world. I don’t know, everyone has their own thing that fires them up. Do it. You could die tomorrow from a blazing chunk of rock coming from the sky – and miss out on all the things you’ve wanted to do. Live once – Deal with the consequences later. Sure – you may have a child which hinders things, finances may be in line with your overall goal – but isn’t there something else that can be done in the meantime to get you partway there?

Again, I don’t think I’ve articulated this properly – but what triggered me to finally write this post was something that I saw posted on the wall in a high school on a very magical day in Yellowknife, June 21 – Solstice – I recently looked back at some of the photos from that day and remembered that i snapped a photo of this piece of writing:


A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour:
Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?




  1. James
    September 13th, 2010

    Best post yet – very well said and quite moving! Nicely done!

  2. Lou
    October 17th, 2011

    Thanks for this. Although I’ve heard that last story before, it’s good to think about it with a fresh set of eyes every once in a while. Inspiring!

  3. Peter France
    January 23rd, 2012

    Mmm, about the metro. Most people who are in the metro are there to get from A to B.
    If they would have had this experiment on a square, outside, a weekend, probably a lot of people would have stopped to appreciate the music, whether they recognized the man or not,

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