All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. So said Martin Buber, a prominent twentieth-century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist, and educator. And I think he might have something there.
Two years ago, I walked around the corner to have a cup of coffee, little knowing that a simple cappuccino would mark the first step on a journey to somewhere I really had no intention of going, but am really glad I went. Life does that. If we’re open to it.
Every time we venture out in to the world, we meet people. Chance encounters, work events, water-cooler conversations – every interaction has the possibility of being a first step on a journey to somewhere. Today, courtesy of the Internet, we don’t even have to step out of our physical environment to step into the world outside.
Some weeks ago, I reposted a blog on a Facebook group that gathers people, like myself, who find cemeteries fascinating. Someone commenting made a reference to ossuaries in Hungary. I answered – and a conversation ensued. Now US-based, they’d left Hungary some 20 years ago and had never been back. We had a lovely chat about this and that. Afterwards, I likened it to a chance meeting on, say, a bus or train, or airplane – the only difference being that neither of us had travelled farther than our laptops.
Some months ago, I saw a comment on another group I subscribe to, and noted the person commenting was living in Alaska. Turns out, we knew each other. As we caught up on what had gone on in the 16 years or so since we’d last met, the 7881 km separating us were reduced to nothing. Afterwards, I likened it to school reunion – a reconnection after years of nothing that turns out to be something.
Some years ago, I was on a job taking photos for a publication in the UK and had reason to visit Chichester, not knowing that years later, I would end up living there for a couple of years and reconnecting with one of my photographees. Today, they’re in France and I’m in Budapest. And we still keep in touch.
If we stop and wonder why we are where we are or why we’re with who we’re with or why we’re doing what we’re doing, it all probably boils down to one simple act, a single moment in time, perhaps a spur-of-the-moment decision. And equally, were we to think of what might have been had we not done that one thing or taken that quick decision, how different might our lives have been.
My email footer features a quotation I ascribe to Sydney J Harris but others might ascribe to Sydney Smith – depending on which Google result is chosen. And it goes: Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. And I’d be a tad upset right now had I not gone for that coffee.