Life is short.
And it is long.
For the one who has found his Element, it is short.
For the one who has not, it is long.
Ernest Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic. It’s said that when he was away from his expeditions, Shackleton’s life was “restless and unfulfilled.”
In January of 1915 his ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice. They would be trapped until the following spring.
When spring arrived, the ship could no longer bear the pressure of the ice. Shackleton and his men were forced to abandon it.
They camped for six months on a sheet of floating ice. Until it broke. They scurried into life boats. And for five days, braved treacherous seas. And landed on Elephant Island.
This was the first time they had stood on solid ground in 497 days.
Shackleton decided to embark upon a 720-mile journey in the smallest of the tiny life boats, toward South Georgia. He headed straight into the treacherous seas and the hurricane-force winds of the mighty Southern Ocean. In search of rescue for him and his men.
They somehow reached the island. Upon arriving, however, they discovered that they would need to cross heavy mountainous terrain on foot. It was a land crossing the likes of which had never been attempted.
He lived. And saved the life of all his men.
A thought comes to my mind: After returning to domestic life, what else could Shackleton possibly feel besides “restless and unfulfilled?”
The world will say that it is a fortunate relief that Shackleton lived.
But I will say that on this harrowing and adventurous journey, even if Shackleton had died, he would have Lived.
The Truth is, that Shackleton pursued what every man seeks.
Though man has decided to domesticate himself, his heart remains wild.
Though he has confined himself to the four walls of a structure, he secretly longs to fly.
Though he tries to cultivate calmness, within him lives a restlessness that does not die.
The famous man feels his heart race when millions cheer his name. But the day to day existence that is his default life, is filled with monotony. His heart longs to race again.
The professional athlete’s typical day is a life chained to the mundane. A life of repetitive and uninspiring “practice.” While it does not need to be this way, this is the state of affairs.
The celebrity entrepreneur, the actor, the singer, and the artist simmer for the bulk of their life in a routine and uninspired state. Fruitless meetings, corporate obligations, and endless chores.
Every pro athlete, every celebrity, every famous executive, CEO, founder, and entrepreneur have long stretches of monotony, punctuated by five minute-bursts of fame.
The singer longs to live on the stage in which she sings.
The pro athlete longs to live on the field in which he plays.
Every human being longs for the heart to keep beating. He lives for the exhilaration. He will take anything besides having to return to a life of mundane routine.
He will not reveal this to the media. And perhaps not even to himself.
But what he seeks, perhaps even more than his family, is a life of adventure. A life of inspiration. He longs to feel that light-headed euphoria of being lost in a cause.
He deathly craves the intoxication of forgetting himself.
This is why Alex Honnold free solo’s 2000-foot peaks without the aid of a rope. Fall, and you die. That’s Living.
Ernest and I have never met. But as he sailed into the Southern Ocean, I’m certain he would have told me that he felt Alive.
Whether the Journey is to climb Everest, sail solo around the world, build an empire, or find Enlightenment, it is a surrender of the self. It is a rising of the heart.
The heart longs to beat in this way.
Man was not made to be societal.
Domestication is not in his nature.
It is because he has suffocated his soul that he seeks escape through substances, entertainment, and travel.
Societal man, no matter how successful he has become, yearns to Live. And somewhere within him he knows that a part of him hasn’t lived in years.
Somewhere within him he knows that the brick and mortar society in which he lives is a cemetery.
He longs for discovery.
He longs for exploration.
He longs for expeditions into the mysterious void.
He longs for the bliss of distant shores.
And he would happily surrender his life thirty years before he was due, if he could Intensely Live for twenty of them True.