Being Present

Lets drop in on two good friends, Bob and Jim, in the kind of conversation that, unfortunately, happens all too often these days.

Bob says, “You know, I’ve been thinking lately. It’s time for a change. Work is stale.”

“My life is stale.” Interrupts Jim, head down scrolling through his phone.

Bob continues, “I thought corporate was the way to go, a good way to make a lot of money. But that never happened. Now it’s not even about money. I feel like I’m wasting time, like nothing I do matters in the big picture.”

Jim looks up from his phone for a moment and glances at Bob, nodding his head in agreement.

Bob can’t help but think his friend a little distracted but continues his thought anyway, “Because my heart’s not in it. I don’t think it ever was. And life is about so much more than a bank account. Before you know it, it’s half over and you’re wondering what difference did your life make? This rat race of more, more, more can’t be all there is. When will more be enough?”

There is a pause and both men are still.

Shaking his head, Jim puts his phone away. He takes a deep breath and says, “I hear you. I don’t know what to do about Kaitlyn. I’m in love with this girl. I’ve been chasing her forever. We have such a great connection and now she says she just wants to be friends. I think she may be seeing someone else.”

The response leaves Bob wondering. Clearly Jim didn’t hear a word he said. And it was kind of important too. In fact both parties were trying to communicate something that was important to them and both thoughts deserve to be heard. But who will hear them when no one is listening?

That was the question raised by a good friend after we saw the movie “A Story Worth Living”. The trailer painted a picture of an epic motorcycle adventure. Six guys, five of them with no experience riding off road, set out to do a thousand miles in the Colorado back country. It looked like one hell of a journey. And it was. But not exactly the journey we were expecting.

We picked up a few pizzas and some beer on the way to the theater and tailgated before the show. We ate all the pizza and didn’t drink much beer. Not too long ago it would have been the other way around. Walking into the theater, we passed by and commented on the many bikes in the parking lot. A lot of people showed up on two wheels looking forward to an action packed riding adventure.

Ten minutes into the story it was clear this film was a little different. Some of the audience members were disappointed. Others appeared to enjoy the unexpected spiritual perspective.

To be fair there were some great riding sequences and valuable insight into what it takes for a rookie to pilot an 800 pound bike up steep hills, over rocks and through deep water and mud. The trial by fire nature of the trip made hardships like three broken ribs and a collapsed lung much more poignant. It also made for the kind of smiles you see when people are succeeding at something new and loving every minute of it, concrete evidence of the growth and joy possible when you leave your comfort zone. But the focus of the film went even deeper than that.

At its core the movie is about finding the beauty in your own story. The film put an emphasis on the word beauty by exploring where our world would be without it. The idea was punctuated with enormous panoramic shots of six tiny motorcycles crossing sprawling prairies, weaving through wild life and traversing rugged mountain passes.

It conveys an inspiring message that makes you want to bust out of your comfort zone and write the page turning story of your own life. It shows a bunch of guys appreciating the immense beauty of our world. And they hold on to that appreciation even when things go terribly wrong. A strong camaraderie develops between these adventurous souls that you don’t see everyday. But now you wish you did.

This is one of those stories you can return to again and again and always come away with something new. And that’s exactly what happened during a follow up conversation when my friend shared something about the story I hadn’t noticed.

Throughout the movie there were a lot of deep conversations between the riders and the people they met along the way. An older man talked about letting go of regrets that he held onto for far too long, forgiving yourself and moving on. In another conversation, a friend they visited shared how his life spent caring for horses has helped him escape and recover from childhood abuses. The riders themselves talked about their biggest fears and their greatest loves. A certain spiritual aspect dominated the film. It’s the piece no one expected and it’s also the very thing that prompted this insightful observation.

As everyone told their stories, a common thread began to emerge; the people who were not talking were actually listening. They were listening intently with interest. When they responded it made sense and built on whatever idea was being discussed. They were having genuine conversations and learning from each other.

My friend commented that most people don’t really listen anymore. They may think they’re listening but they’re just waiting for the other person to finish speaking so they can respond. The difference can be so subtle that it goes unnoticed.

In a world where we can communicate farther, faster and more clearly than ever before, we have somehow lost our ability to do so with someone sitting right next to us. Maybe our lives have become too fast paced. Maybe we have too many distractions. Maybe we should focus a little more on being present in the present.

The guys in the movie were fully experiencing life in the here and now. There were no distractions. Imagine if everyone treated every conversation and every experience like it was all that existed at that moment, and appreciated it for all it has to offer. You never know what you might learn. You know, like, when you go to a motorcycle movie that ends up being about a lot more than just motorcycles.

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