On a pale yellow morning, I watched the people sell their wares, wash their clothes, and perform religions rituals on the banks of the Ganges River. I only knew this river from books, so I was surprised by its lack of magnificence and holiness; the wide tan water barely moved.
After sketchy negotiations with a boat owner, a friend and I ventured onto the river in a questionable rowboat. We prayed he’d return us safely in an hour. Funeral pyres burned on the temple-dotted shore. I kept watching the boat bottom for leaks. Though an accomplished swimmer I wasn’t interested in swimming to shore in the muddy, though holy, water.
Back on solid ground I wandered the shore, pondering the sites, and taking photos lest I forget a moment of this experience. Beyond the crowds, I came upon another boat, one that must have been spectacular in its day. It must have traveled this river, it must have journeyed long, it must have carried people and animals to other places. Now she sits abandoned on the shore, waiting to be robbed of her timbers while she rots into oblivion.
What if this boat is me? What if this is the only vessel I have for my life’s journey?
No matter that it doesn’t look seaworthy. No matter that others have sailboats, speedboats, and yachts. No matter that others have captains who know the way.
But what if…
What if I choose to journey anyway, even though I’m not ready, I don’t know the way, and my seaworthiness is questionable?
What if I am determined to travel, though it makes others uncomfortable? What must I do to begin my journey?
- I will set aside my comparisons to others. If I wait until I have a vessel like theirs or my imagined one, I will never begin my journey.
- I’m checking my expectations. Perhaps they are misplaced or unreasonable. This boat, this river, this time are my only reality.
- I will ready this vessel for the journey. I’m taking buckets, duck tape, and chewing gum — and setting out. Years in dry dock attaining perfection only delay my travel.
That Ganges morning continues to impact my life nearly fifty years later. I remember the water, the heat, the people, the aromas, the colors, the temples, and the boats. The memories and photos trigger my learnings:
- Holy is not always what you expect. Be open to the unimagined.
- You have what you need for your journey. Don’t wait for perfection before traveling.
Until next Tuesday…