In the original Greek or Latin – or some other ancient language – my name means “Light”. I assume the word refers to optical or spiritual light, not the sort of light that describes an absence of weight. Of course, it could be that one “light” affects the other. If one is burdened with the weight of cares and anxiety, so much so as to obscure his spirit behind a veil of distraction, his inner light will be a pale one indeed.
I’d not seen Mark in some time; I believe it had been a year or more. When I encountered him recently, he was different than the Mark I’d last seen. Physically, he appeared a good twenty pounds lighter, but inwardly – that part of him you can see through the windows of the eyes – was immeasurably lighter. Lighter, yes, and younger. His speech was slower, smoother than I’d remembered. There was a shine to his appearance. The change in him struck me enough to stop what I was doing and start a conversation.
“How you been?” I asked, and I didn’t say it in an absent, air filling sort of way. I asked in a really want to know sort of way, which I tried to assure by a pat to his shoulder.
“Doing great. I sold the business, you know.”
Mark’s in the same field that I’ve been unable to fully detach myself from for over ten years. His company performs disaster recovery services in homes and businesses that have been damaged from water or fire loss. It’s an extremely lucrative field. It can be rewarding in more ways than one, but it can also tax a person to the point of despair, if you are prone to such things. The 2am emergency calls, the constant running around to secure jobs before the competition, the scramble to network and exploit new and better marketing tactics, the near daily necessity to interface with the crooked, petulant insurance industry – these trying factors do little to lighten a man’s inner burdens. Mark had always struck me as a really good guy. A really good, but stressed out guy.
“A few months ago, I’m sitting in a B&I meeting,” Mark started to tell me. “and all these other business owners are talking about their companies – ‘Business is great! Business sucks! This is what I’m doing to grow my business! Business, business, busy blah blah.’ So I’m sitting there, feeling like I’m in my own world, apart from all these other business guys.” He peered over my right shoulder as he spoke, looking into what I suppose must have been a portal to that other world – a world apart from the day to day that almost all of us have fooled ourselves into thinking is the true thing; he gazed with those worry-free eyes into a world of meaning, a world of freedom, a world the rest of us only tend to see in the rare, quiet moments when we are nearly asleep…or nearly awake.
“So I spoke up.” Mark continued. “I said, ‘You know, we all come to these meetings, month after month, and all anybody ever talks about is growing their business, growing their business. Does anybody ever give any thought to how they are going to grow out of their business?’ They all looked at me like I’d just landed a UFO, like I was speaking a totally different language.”
“You know Luke,” he said, “when you start a business, you work ten times harder than almost anybody else, and for what? Isn’t it so you can slow down some day and enjoy life? But then some day never seems to come.”
But some day did come, for Mark it did, anyway – came right there in that B&I networking meeting, where he paused long enough to realize that he truly was an alien of sorts. For that room full of “earthlings”, the growing of their businesses had become an end in itself. They’d become fooled. I think most of us are fooled much of the time. Not Mark. Not anymore.
“Check this out!” he said, with a wave of his hand, as we walked to the parking lot. He gestured toward a Toyota pickup, brilliant in blue, hitched to a white cargo trailer. “From twenty-seven-hundred square feet to seventy-two square feet. Everything I own is right here! Everything else, I sold.”
Mark is headed down to Mexico “for awhile.” In my recollections of our conversation, it is those two words that reverberate most. Such space in those words – “for awhile.” He will be doing underwater photography down there, in Mexico, “for awhile.” And why not? He’s paid his dues in the world of the untrue – why not escape? Why not enjoy “for awhile”? How long is “awhile”, anyway? I think I know. “Awhile” has no specified length, but it is long enough so that, upon approaching its proximity, you cannot see the other side. It is large enough for you to ignore that it must conclude. It’s vast enough to make you believe, if for a time, that its end may not exist.
“This world can fool you into thinking you can’t escape the rat race. But it’s a lie. You can do something about it.” Mark said, just before wading into my iPhone’s photo stream.
Guys like Mark are rare, but we need people like him, don’t we? We need to be reminded that this world of untrue is not what we think it is, that this world is not an end in itself. There is something better for us, not only on the far end of eternity, but right here, now.
There is space for us…”for awhile.”
Categories: Faces In The Sea