Learning to Live With the World: Off-Roading Edition

One of the great highlights of my vacation this year was going off-roading with my family and a friend from high school in Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, Utah.

Me driving our car on the Shafer Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah.

Me driving our car on the Shafer Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah.

My wife, who is afraid of heights (exacerbated by four kids), is always willing to try to overcome such things in the name of adventure – but this one was a well agonized over adventure because we didn’t just go off-roading.  We went down a canyon trail that included sheer drops, massive switchbacks, and the possibility of coming bumper to bumper with another vehicle trying to go through you.

The top portion of the Shafer Trail.

The top portion of the Shafer Trail.

Switchbacks, if you aren't familiar with them, are what get you down/up the steep sides of the canyons.

Switchbacks, if you aren’t familiar with them, are what get you down/up the steep sides of the canyons.

After we got down the cliff we then ended up on a trail that was sometimes rock, sometimes sand, sometimes dried out water trail twisting along the top of the Colorado River as it wound its way through some very forbidding –but also gorgeous—landscape.

The Kukla family about half way through drive along the Colorado River.

The Kukla family about half way through drive along the Colorado River.

Along the way my friend Tom was teaching (with a gentle, wise, invitational style he is excellent at—he is very fine facilitator of learning) how to off-road.  He never took the wheel, never reprimanded, and occasionally “suggested” an approach with affirmation around every corner.  And all the while we crawled across, down, and up the face of the earth in all its pock-marked variations.  At one point a jeep came up behind us, quite quickly.  I watched it (as one who was going very slow), and thought, “here is someone who really knows what they are doing”.  Tom had a different take.  His comment was, “Just watch, that’s going to be a rental jeep.”  And it was…

Tom informed me that the problem with off-roaders is that they watch commercials that show jeeps and rally cars flying around fast as can be “crashing through the land.”  This, he said, teaches people that this is how they are meant to off-road and it’s affirmed in doing it because its great fun.  But its hell on the car.  Literally.  If you actually have to drive the car and maintain it in good working order you would never off-road like that.  You don’t, “crash through” the wilderness because that kills your tires and axles and overall physicality of your vehicle.  You don’t attack the land, you ride with it.  You move along it.  You travel it gently and carefully and… invitationally.  I think Tom has learned to teach from the land.  Traveling the land has taught him to travel with people in just the same way.  Not crashing through, and then throwing away all that we wrecked along the way.  But learning to live with, alongside, and even directed by the world toward path of less resistance that lives with – and not just upon- the earth.

That's Tom on the left looking every bit the Moabite! (perfect time for some slightly out of place biblical humor)

That’s Tom on the left looking every bit the Moabite! (perfect time for some slightly out of place biblical humor)

I was brought into this process and it was like one of those tuning fork moments.  Enlightenment moments.  My being felt centered in this wisdom.  We are meant to travel along the world, alongside people, with gentle care.  Instead we hurry, we crash around, we force a way through, and we conform the world to our wishes –rather than conform our lives to the landscapes around us.

Just think about how often this is true in so many different places. How many places are we like rental jeeps crashing into and at “war” with the world around us (and even wthin us).  And then you wonder why our “knees” creak and our bodies wear down and we why we have to hide from the consequences of the way we have chosen to live.  We subdue the world around us and its fun… right up to the point when we realize it’s been hell on our bodies, our world, and the people around us.

The Colorado winding through (making, ever so gently) the canyons that give this national park its name.

The Colorado winding through (making, ever so gently) the canyons that give this national park its name.

Maybe that describes your physically lifestyle –all work and no play right up until it all breaks down.

Maybe even your play has become work so your recreation is more wreck-reation than re-creation.

Maybe its not taking care of your body, mind, and spirit as you bang around life as if your jeep is just a rental and you don’t have to maintain it.

Maybe its about your relationships – as if people are just means to an end and then tossed aside.

Maybe its about facing each conversation as a moment to prove yourself victorious in debate.

Maybe its about being a rugged individual as if the world is not interwoven and inter-connected with all life.

Maybe its about the creation around you – as if the world is our plaything to do with as we will.

Maybe its about leaving wreckage behind us as if that is someone else’s to clean up.

Maybe its treating the world as rental jeep.

I told you.  This felt like an enlightenment kind of observation.  I think I could continue to find correlations here in every nook I look.  We are off-roading.  All of us.  How we choose to travel says a lot about us, but also sets the tone for the journey ahead, because all of life has consequences.  How we live among creation echoes ahead of us as we go – in our relationships, our lives, and our world.

Tread with care.

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About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on September 1, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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