Friday, June 17, 2011

Running Away

Evan Ratliff as himself
We live in a great big world, which should make it pretty easy to disappear.  Still, there are a lot of connections in this world of ours, which makes it a lot more difficult.  How hard would it be to vanish in this age of so many electronic tools and so much electronic communication?

In August 2009, author Evan Ratliff partnered with on a contest in which Ratliff would try to disappear for thirty days and anyone interested would try to find him.  The goal wasn't just to remain hidden, but to do so while still staying engaged in some of his usual activities, including a degree of online presence.  He wrote a brief account of the chase, published here.

Ratliff in disguise at a soccer game
The digital communications part is worthwhile, though this situation was skewed by a number of factors, like promising to keep some significant habits and enticing a large crowd of people to find him.  So... something to think about, but not what I find most interesting, and it's not what I'm talking about here.

For me, anyway, Ratliff's experiment speaks more to relationships than to technology.

One part of this -- He wrote about trying to "reinvent" himself, even for just a short time, seeing if he can leave the past behind and start over.  He wasn't alone in this line of thinking, as he received notes from strangers asking about the experience.  Some were intrigued as they pondered the idea of starting over in their own lives, while others were trying to understand after being "left behind" in some way by a loved one.

That got me thinking.  It is normal to wish for a new beginning, a fresh start in an attempt to escape past mistakes and old regrets.  Yet simply wishing things had been different does not make it so.  Leaving the situation without dealing with the issue means carrying the mistake forward into what may otherwise have been a fresh start.*

The idea of quietly disappearing has some understandable appeal.  Still, when it comes down to wishing for a clean slate because of regrets, I think there is a way which is usually slower, often more difficult, and consistently better -- the way of honestly acknowledging what has happened and naming the regrets, seeking forgiveness where needed, forgiving where needed, recognizing limits, determining priorities, establishing healthy boundaries, and figuring out how to move forward from there.

This can be a daunting task.  But it's got to be better than living with one's soul on the run.

*There are sometimes issues of safety which must be addressed wisely and decisively.

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