The Byzantine Empire was at it's absolute zenith when BLAM! a plague collapsed the entire enterprise. The roaring 20's gave way to the depression. The trust in government, institutions, and companies to be honest (and care for our best interests) collapsed into the disillusionment of the 1960s.
The Roman's might say these pivotal moments were caused by Fortuna turning her rudder. This mythical figure is a good object of contemplation. She represents a fundamental truth about the nature of life.
Fear not. We'll get through these Coronavirus times. We will evolve as a species for the challenge and the reminder that we are not outside of history or nature.
Putting a yes around life's situations, even the most difficult ones, makes them all easier to handle.
Credit to Marcus Aurelius and Tara Brach for inspiring this perspective.
This is a revision of an article I published exactly 4 years ago. Now with video!
One of the most influential people in my life was a guy I knew for less than 2 minutes. Compared to other stories I have this will seem super mundane, but stick with me... that's kind of the point.
I was working as a grocery bagger for Thompson's Food Basket in Peoria, IL. One day I manned the register and soon got into the flow of quickly handling customers.
"Hey how's it going," I'd say perfunctorily.
Bleep Bleep Bleep. I'd scan their items.
"That'll be 45.60$"
"Thanks. Have a nice day."
Over and over I'd run them through like a blur. I was a young man being assimilated into the machine of the modern, busy world where we plow through our day mainly lost in our heads. Strangers around us interpreted as either obstacles or gatekeepers.
The next customer came up.
"Hey how's it going?" I said not looking up as I reached for his items.
"Good man. How are you," this shapeless customer replied.
"Good," I said as I begin to scan. Bleep bleep bleep.
"No man," He said with authority, "how's it going?"
I lifted my gaze up as if broken from a daydream to see a man in the prime of his life. He was handsome, fit, and had all his attention focused upon me. He was radiating a positive energy. He seemed to genuinely be inquiring about my state without any kind of agenda.
"Oh... I guess I'm good," I stammered.
"Right on," replied the guy with a warm smile, still looking at me.
We finished the transaction and he went his way. Never saw the guy again. That's my story.
This happened over 20 years ago and I still remember it clear as day. Why? Cause a super cool Brad Pitt type of dude gave me all his attention for a minute. He acknowledged me: a shy, skinny, socially awkward 16 year old who still hadn't kissed a girl. For a moment I wasn't just a bumbling kid that handled groceries for minimum wage. I was a bro.
Think about this: Who was the Elvis of the Mayan Empire? Who was the Michael Jordan athlete of the Mycenaeans? Who was the legendary hunter of the Apache or the beauty queen of the Han dynasty? Surely these personalities burned legendary at one point, but they are all forgotten now, just as this anonymous cool guy is nameless. He could very well be dead. His ego, just like that of all the Incan emperors you can't remember, has crumbled to dust; but the waves of energy he pushed out into the world live on. Because of him I try (though often fail) to take a beat and acknowledge the people around me. Because of him I'm writing this post.
I used to imagine one day I'd maybe change the world in a monumentally positive way, like Hellen Keller or Abraham Lincoln, and perhaps I still might. But I strongly believe our real contribution occurs this day, when you walk out your door to grab a coffee, take the subway, or buy your groceries. What kind of waves of energy are you pushing out into the world? Let me encourage you to jump on the vibration of that nameless cool cat of Peoria, IL. Take a moment to acknowledge people. Pour a few seconds of all your attention into little genuine gesture of "I see you" or "I get you." It could be the brightest spot in that person's day, and just maybe they'll remember it, and emulate it, decades later.
I can't definitively say the gear I have is the best on the market, but it's served me well. I scrolled through my purchase history on Amazon to find some of the items. I choose bright colors when I can because it's easier to spot in a hotel room (so you don't leave it behind), easier to keep an eye on while you take a swim at the beach, and thieves are less likely to grab something that is easy to follow.
Here is an awkward situation when you travel: Someone sets a plate of food in front of you and your gut says "Don't eat that!" Maybe the restaurant owner is standing over you, beaming with pride, waiting to see the reaction of your first taste. Maybe it's a new friend having you over. How to escape this situation and leave everyone's pride intact?
Another awkward situation: Your driver is being reckless. Maybe you're on a bus full of people and nobody is speaking up. Maybe you're in a car and you don't want to offend the driver's pride. What to do?
In this video I'll share experiences I've had in both situations and how I resolve them now.
Got alternative techniques? Let me know in the comments.
I started the year in the wilderness with a friend I love like a brother. The best place to be for these axis moments… in our natural environment, surrounded by the pulse of life, and sharing that time with someone close. What an ideal place for gratitude and reflection.
Elbow injury. Learned that some kind of pain is good (see my article of trail runs for that) but sharp pain is STOP what you are doing NOW.
Filming an episode for a Food Relay in Cuba. What a remarkable place. What a great shoot with a fantastic performance from our host, top-notch camerawork, and a killer edit from my team.
I was betrayed a couple times at the beginning of 2019. The second one, by a long-time friend, fucked my head up for months. Betrayal sent shockwaves through my entire network of trust. I feared that someone else in my network might be engaged in a secret line of behavior... was another shoe going to drop?
The upside, though hard to reach, is that I came to value my inner circle friends even more. It's utterly important to have this tight orbit of friends who are concerned for my well-being and care for my feelings. They want to lower my anxiety. They want to see me happy. When they have to make a decision that might affect me, they will reach out to have a discussion first. Having this, I can open up and share all of myself. My friends can do the same with me. This is how we grow and rise together.
For most of the year I was committed to a romantic relationship. Although it was not easy, it was a beautiful project. We are no longer romantically entwined, but it was a success in many ways. I learned to push through difficulty and find more depth on the other side. I learned to set boundaries and hold them. I learned how to bravely end things when it no longer served either one of us.
What an honor it was to watch and assist this person in their growth over this time. What deep appreciation I have for the growth I experienced with their guidance. I feel so grateful that another human wanted to undertake this project with me.
Road Less Traveled on for a 5th season! So grateful to you my fans and viewers. Thank you so much for spending your precious time with me. Some of you have reached out to say that you enjoy traveling through me as if i am their avatar. I see you and i think about you on the road. I will do my best to be courageous, honest, curious, and mindful in my journeys.. Uncovering the good stuff and the real stuff for us all to share, enjoy, and contemplate.
There will be many things you do this week for the last time in the decade. The last time you see certain friends, the last time you eat a particular food, and the last time you visit a special place. What’s the big deal? You’ll do it all again in 2020..... Or will you?
As an experiment consider that these could be the very last times you do these things. Why would you entertain such morbid thoughts? Because one day it will be the last time, and most likely you won’t realize this as that moment passes. You will probably not give tit your full attention, lost partially in thought and preoccupied with the phone.
How would you treat 2019’s last scenes as if they were final? How would you say goodbye to the friend you’ll never see again? How would you savor that meal? How would you soak in the atmosphere of your favorite spot?
Let’s give ourselves the holiday gift of placing full attention, appreciation, and intention on the decade’s final moments.
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.