“You must be so sick of traveling.” I hear that one a lot. And since I’m writing this near the end of an 11-hour flight to Japan, I’ll admit that I’ve felt it at times. But for the most part, traveling has become one of my favorite addictions. The more i travel, the more I want it. In fact, to be honest, I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface. Even if I were to devote the rest of my life purely to exploration, I could never even begin to exhaust all of the mind-blowing places on this planet. And that’s just talking about what’s on land. Don’t even get me started on what’s beneath the surface of the ocean. Or beyond our atmosphere. Or beyond our galaxy. Or… you get the idea. Traveling expands the way I see the world, and that’s important.
My last journal entry talked about heart expansion. But what about the world around us, can it grow too? We’ve always been taught that the world is shrinking, thanks to improved travel, communication and technology. And I get that, but I wonder if the world is actually both growing and shrinking at the same time. For some, the world is indeed shrinking. Smaller and duller every day. In fact, I think it might be possible to shrink the entire universe into the size of our iPhones, or our fears, or our regrets, or whatever other phantoms we might be chasing. But for others, I think the world is growing. These are the explorers, the scientists, the dreamers, the radicals, the visionaries, — those who are able to see beyond the distractions of our time to a larger story that is ongoing and significant. For them, the world is enormous, and growing larger every day. For them, it seems that every answered question is replaced by ten more questions. For them, wonder and mystery and adventure seem to abound without end. And I guess traveling re-engages that part of me, and my world begins to grow again.
All this growing and shrinking of worlds! It begs an important conclusion: everyone’s world is different. If perception is reality, and everyone’s perception is unique, then it only follows that the world is different for each and every one of us. I know that sounds pretty self-centered, but humor me for a second. The way that I perceive the world is what is real to me. And the same for you. We are all living in different worlds, each one seen through a filter of bias that is uniquely our own. Almost like parallel universes, we all experience things differently. For example, yesterday morning I woke up early to go free-diving in the ocean for lobsters. As I stood at the water’s edge, about to pull my mask over my head, I witnessed a large humpback whale (is there any other kind of humpback whale?) jump completely out of the water, landing in a violent collision of white, blue, and grey, and leaving behind a frothy wake. And although I was alone, I heard myself let out a loud and genuine, “woah!”, which probably startled the poor lady who happened to walk in front of me at that same moment. She managed to pull her eyes away from her phone long enough to give me an annoyed look (probably for startling her), and then continued on her way, staring once more at the screen on her phone. I tried briefly to tell her about the whale I’d seen, but my attempt was unsuccessful. Giving up on the effort, I began my awkward waddle-while-wearing-flippers into the ocean, pondering the disconnect between her world and mine. Despite the fact that we’d both been standing in the exact same spot, on the exact same beach, next to the exact same ocean, our two worlds were completely different. Mine had whales in it, and hers did not. Or if it did, the whales clearly were no longer wonderful and amazing like the ones in my ocean. And I was thankful to be living in my world and not hers. And then I wondered how many times the roles had been reversed. How many times had I chosen a smaller world over a larger one?
Our world is how we perceive it, and there’s no escaping it. The important question then is this: what would you like YOUR world to become? I’m not talking about the world that we all share. I’m talking about the world that is uniquely YOURS, the one that only you can see through the looking glass of your fears, hopes, passions, and choices. Because I actually believe that the choices we make have the power to radically grow or shrink our perception of the world around us.
I used to have this fear of growing up, a fear that the world would somehow gradually lose it’s wonder. Like solving a mystery and realizing that it wasn’t so mysterious after all. Or maybe like the sadness of finishing a good book. But that hasn’t been my experience. The more time you spend admiring the painting, the more colors you’ll see. But you have to choose to look at it. The world is as large and amazing and beautiful and terrifying and wonderful as you allow it to be. Or it can be small and dull (as a side note, but also more importantly, I’ve found that this is also true with how we choose to experience God). The edge of the earth will always be a place of mystery. The undiscovered. Look for it in the people around you. Look for it hidden within the pages of everyday life, or even on the other side of the globe. But you’ll never reach it. The beauty is in the journey. Meet me here at the edge of the earth.