The Destination Or The Journey?

It’s not really a hard question to answer. But wait… maybe it is. I know what my answer to that age old question is, but do you? Have you always known your answer? Has your answer perhaps changed with the years? 

I ask, because of all the distinctly different kinds of people in the world, this particular question tends to separate us into only three or four different types. That’s pretty powerful, when you think about it. And what types might they be? Why, the journey folk, the destination folk, the “both” folk, and the… well, I’m not sure what the fourth group would be. Perhaps “neither…” but I wouldn’t know how to define them.

See, in my mind there’s a major difference between the first two, a difference I’ve observed in people all my life. I had several friends who were severely destination oriented. Over time we always became uncomfortable with each other… I, wanting them to slow down and enjoy the moment, and they, wanting me to pick up the pace, get more intense and show some results. Sound familiar? Sure.

For me, there are several ways to look at this. Mine is to relax, let it happen, enjoy the journey. Push if it’s required or needed, but don’t stress about the deadline, or the outcome. I’ve never felt the need to be in complete control of my life, my direction. Could I make a decision on that direction if needed? Of course. I wasn’t a leaf, blowing in a random breeze, though I’m sure some of my acquaintances thought I was. But I had direction. My life experiences and momentary loves, new interests and passions were my direction. It had to appear random to others, and in fact it was random to some degree. And that was exactly my comfort zone. I always felt that life was leading me on a great journey, and I welcomed it, adopted it, almost wallowed in it.

I had friends who fought and scratched and worked so hard for their destination, and some succeeded. Others spun their wheels, trying too hard, wanting too much, pushing against fates that would not be pushed. One of my good friends, who is gone now… Billy Degnats, a world-class drummer from Atlanta, knew exactly how much enough was. Billy was so grounded, he knew what was important in this life… loving, giving, helping. He was scary intuitive, and his East Coast cool could not hide his huge heart, and his immense understanding of the world, and his place in it.

Billy and I rode the same wave of spontaneity. From the first time we worked together, we became friends, and on nearly all the gigs we played together, we’d end up sharing our stories and feelings about our spirituality and where we were at the moment, because that was a fine comfort zone for both of us.

One evening, on the break, we were sipping wine at a table in the corner of the room. He looked at me, with the same loving intensity that the Dalai Lama had looked at me years ago, and said, “It’s all so simple, man. We know there’s something else, so powerful. All we have to do is feel it, acknowledge it, and go with it. The rest is easy.” He laughed. “Well, easy… you know what I mean.”

I did know what he meant. He and I had been chasing our spirituality since I’d first met him in the early ’70’s. He had studied a discipline called “The Knowledge” and I had done EST and studied with the Atlanta Buddhists. We often laughed, after comparing notes on where we were at the time, at realizing that all roads seemed to always lead to the same end… that end being love and compassion, and the power that comes with the sincerity of those expressions.

I had other friends, friends from whom I drifted apart. While we had much in common, chasing women, partying, trying to find our place in the world back then… our “chasing” became much different, defining and problematic. For I was chasing a dream of being a jazz pianist, and a good one. What was so defining about our differences was how we went about trying to achieve our goals. One friend, who was a fine artist, pushed so hard to be successful, he switched his field of study several times, trying to find a quicker way to become successful. Did he have a passion for these different endeavors? Yes, he became very good at two and could have been commercially successful at either. But three or four times a week he would say, “If I could just…” and it became clear to me that he wasn’t “here, now.” He was all about the destination, and was trying to hurry through the journey in his pursuit. So you know, he ultimately became very successful, though not in either artistic field where his real talent lay. Ah well…

Actually, it’s painfully obvious that, to really experience life, to taste it, to enjoy it moment to moment, to appreciate its depth and its promise of nothing beyond the moment, one has to pause, be aware, breath and understand this miracle we are all experiencing. I have never met a person who, if they were chasing the destination, could relate the meaning of the moment. The dream, the carrot, was always out there, was always the only thing for them. A great motivator for sure, but a path to a meaningful and successful life? Oh hell, maybe. But not my path. Life, for most of us, seems to have flown by in a blur, even if we lived it to the hilt, moment to moment. Think how fast it must have passed for those who longed for the destination!

But that’s how very different we all are. That’s why this question fascinates me so. What motivates each of us, what lights our fires is amazingly diverse. Makes one wonder how we all get along as well as we do. I have seen the incredible art in the churches and the museums in Europe. So many of them were spiritually-Inspired, as was much of the great music of the Christians. When we speak of some of us marching to the beat of a different drum, I think that saying might have a more far-reaching meaning than was originally intended. Inspiration comes to so many of us from so many different directions… then we interpret where we think that inspiration might have emanated, and presto! Diversity happens! And it’s okay. It is, after all, who we are, and who we have always been.

Our diversity makes the world go ‘round. As my love, Betty says, vive la difference between man and woman. It is our differences that make the magic. And perhaps the difference between the destination seekers and the journey travelers also make the magic, also help this old world to spin in a way that we can find comfort in, can find our commonality in. To judge one as better than the other is foolish, selfish, and ignores the fact that we each are searching for peace, happiness, contentment and fulfillment. Searching, each in our own individual way. I have been able to enjoy, to some degree, my friends’ arrival at their destination. I have, however, enjoyed the hell out of my journey. And for those special few who shared my journey and contributed to it, I know for sure that they enjoyed it, too.

Steve Hulse