The Journey or the Destination?

December 29, 2010 – A philosophical question.

By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond

Taking advantage of the “heat wave” luxuriating us with 45-degree temperatures, hand sanding decades’ worth of grime and finish off a fifth door that I’m refurbishing, I had an epiphany: I enjoy the journey more than I do arriving at the destination. This epiphany is not a unique one, but rather a recurring one, one I hinted at it in an essay titled Enjoying Life or Sustaining Life?. Today’s episode was triggered by a fine movie I watched last night, titled Peaceful Warrior, which raised the same philosophical question asked above, as well as a few other compelling philosophical questions.

Sanding away in the garage, listening to the gentle pitter-patter of the rain falling a few feet away, watching the birds, oblivious to the rain, plunging into the grass to snare another unlucky worm, I regretted that I’d soon be finished with my task. (Fortunately, I have two more doors to refurbish after this one!)

Since childhood I’ve enjoyed refurbishing things, making old things look new again, but never more so than today when I have more time than money. In addition to refurbishing things, such as my doors, in seeking to teach myself new skills, I’ve taken a shine to making things, such as the window shown below, my first ever.

Laundry room window (48" by 18") with integral dryer vent

Certainly, I could have made arrangements for a professional window company to install factory-made windows, and were I busy with work I probably would have done exactly that. However, I truly enjoyed designing and making this window, the smallest and simplest of three I’m making for my laundry room, but completing it was anticlimactic, almost disappointing. (Now if only mother nature would give me some decent weather so I can install it!)

For me the journey always seems more enjoyable than arriving at the destination, whether the task involved is making or refurbishing something, going for a hike, a walk, a bike ride or kayaking, cleaning the house, cooking, working in the yard, growing food in the garden or taking a trip (even when air travel was civilized, I still preferred to travel by car).

I can’t help but think that my attitude is related to my tendency to live in the present. I seldom dwell on the past, doing so being a waste of time; I have no future dreams or ambitions; all that remains is the present, which I try to enjoy to the fullest, which explains why I like to eat good food instead of anything to fill the void; why I like to savor home roasted coffee instead of any old warm liquid called “coffee”; and why I like to take my time refurbishing and making things.

Although I’ve always harbored this attitude to some degree, it seems more pronounced today than when I was younger. Perhaps it’s normal for young people, full of dreams and impatience, to crave the destination, failing to notice the journey racing by. Perhaps one needs to develop a degree of maturity and patience to appreciate the present and the journey.

On the other hand, there are plenty of adults who are driven by a sense that they need to achieve some hallmark of “success” by such and such an age in order to avoid feeling like a failure. Such people tend to focus on their goal to the exclusion of all else, especially the journey along the way. By contrast, were I to die tomorrow, I’d have no regrets for all the things I failed to accomplish; I’d be content that I enjoyed myself along the entire path. Are there other people out there who enjoy the journey more than the destination? I find it hard to believe I’m unique in this regard.

One thing worth considering is that arriving at the destination is a momentary pleasure, but the journey can take a long time and afford one a wealth of experiences along the way. If one of the purposes of life is to enjoy the experiences it has to offer, and I believe that is one of life’s purposes, then it seems that one ought to concentrate on enjoying the journey rather than arriving at the destination.

The End