People often talk about “packing light” in relation to travel. Anyone who’s packed any bag knows that it is obviously easier, cheaper and literally lighter to travel with less material things. But what when we’re not just talking about material things?
There is still a whole bag of life sitting in a house on another continent that belongs to me, which I am about to go and fetch. That aside, it is amazing how we think we have unpacked when we take everything out of the bag, wash the clothes and put them on their shelves, hanging the backpack up for its next adventure. I have been home 6 months now, and even though my bag is on the highest shelf out of reach and has been for months, there are still things I am unpacking. Concepts, mindsets, patterns, habits, default settings, acquired philosophies, characteristics and beliefs, the list goes on.
Some have been acquired from others, from experiences, from mind wanderings. Some are to be discarded. Similarly to a wardrobe, these invisible items we carry with us change in permutation over time. Which begs the question: Is it best/possible to travel light, as we acquire new intangible additions to our pack over time?
The fact remains: It is easier to travel light. But intangibly, even in that realm things have different weights. It can be the things that have the most weight that may ironically be the most uplifting and enlightening, because we are now talking about meaning and value which have nothing to do with physical heaviness.
It takes far more time to unpack invisible items than the physical ones in one’s backpack. But it is perhaps more important. How else will we get to that beautiful little lesson we tucked into the tiny handmade leather pouch in the secret pocket in the side of our pack? We can’t just chuck our invisible things we’ve collected onto the floor and absent-mindedly arrange them on our shelves. Sometimes those intangible items only come out of the bag MUCH later, when we are ready, when they are ready to be seen – they can sometimes remain invisible to us even if they belong to us. I am still seeing new things and learning new lessons.
I also realise that our bags are never completely empty. As we progress through life, it is a process of collection and accumulation, attrition and re-distribution. We can’t unpack everything at once, and not all things are meant to be unpacked. But it is important to take time out, and to be able to access the things we need to in our bags. Re-aligning our default settings to integrate our newly-learned/packed lessons is a fine art that requires practice.
Phronesis is a glorious word that refers to the application of wisdom. It is one thing to gain knowledge, but without applying it, it remains just that – knowledge – dormant and hypothetical. It is all good and well to unpack what we know, but that good goes no further until we apply it.
That is my challenge to myself: To meaningfully start putting into practice what I have been unpacking and live my life in a way that reflects the new shades and threads that have been weaved into my tapestry.