catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 11 :: 2009.05.22 — 2009.06.05


Alone in my truck

I’ve solved many of the world’s problems. I’ve miraculously healed individuals through counseling, inspired tens of thousands of audience members toward change, reconciled the worst of enemies and battled through my own conditions with hands raised in victory. And all while driving to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh isn’t the catalyst, of course. I could easily experience the same results en route to Dallas or Atlanta. But I happen to go to Pittsburgh a lot and it takes me three-and-a-half hours. Three-and-a-half hours, alone. These are key ingredients. In fact, five ingredients lead to these remarkable, world-changing feats, and I want to share them with you.

First, I use a small pick-up truck. Any vehicle will do, provided that it doesn’t distract me with its music or navigation system prompts. But my ‘91 Toyota RN seems to work best. Vehicles don’t get much simpler than that and any good solitude guide would concur with this selection. Regarding location, I get decent results when parked alongside a deserted corn field-lined country road, but cruising the highway prevails. Neighborhoods and city streets never work because distractions — people, stop signs, the need to work gears and blinkers — interrupt progress.

Second, solitude. I need to be alone. No mom, no best friend, no un-muted cell phone. Not even an infant who couldn’t interpret my words if she tried. Of course, being the only person in the truck doesn’t mean I’m alone, at first. Henri Nouwen wrote,

One of the early Christian writers describes the first stage of [solitude] as the experience of a man who, after years of living with open doors, suddenly decides to shut them. The visitors who used to come and enter his home start pounding on his doors, wondering why they are not allowed to enter. Only when they realize that they are not welcome do they gradually stop coming. (from Devotional Classics)

Third, time. A three to four hour length of time has two purposes. First, to give “visitors” — whomever or whatever they may be on a particular day — time to “gradually stop coming.” Second, if I’m going to solve the world’s problems, potentially, I don’t want to run the risk of getting 80% finished and having to stop prematurely.

Fourth, imagination. I have to be able to form scenarios and then enter into them. Without imagination, most drivers typically revert to others’ imaginations when they’re bored or cluttered minds turn on the XM satellite radio. If you find yourself facing this temptation, don’t fret. You DO have an imagination. It’s just that one of your visitors might be Insecurity. Keep the door shut, he’ll go away.

Fortunately, I have no radio.

Fifth, talking to myself. I must talk out loud. In the right vehicle, alone with plenty of time and imaginative power, talking out loud makes it real. My voice can rise and fall with inflection and get logic and sequence into the air; my ears can interpret and enjoy the production; my body, now with heavy shoulders, now with open-mouthed laughter, now with clenched fists, now with teary eyes, now with a parched and worked throat, can feel the effects of growing passion as I dream, hope, argue, inspire, convince, defend, love.

When all of these ingredients come together, it’s like magic. I’ve lost my voice before. I’ve cried. I’ve called my destination to say I’d be late (without disclosing that my audience was seat-edged and awaiting a momentous conclusion). Plenty of trips lack this mystical venture, but I’ve gone through enough portals to keep going to Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, I never remember how exactly it went, which means I can’t prove a lick of my work there. Neither can I return to the same session or re-heal the same people on subsequent trips. And I’ve never actually solved a real world problem — just the ones in my head. Every session ends with standing ovations or hugs or more world peace, and with me, amped. Then I get out of my truck and carry on with the day.

I can’t help but reflect on this odd, but enjoyable, exercise and wonder: Do these rare fantasies — enabled mostly by solitude — develop hope in me? And could I actually change the world if I weren’t confined to my truck; if I weren’t so distracted and accompanied by Insecurity everywhere else? Maybe.

I’ll keep going there just in case, and maybe someday I won’t need the portals.

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