If you need further evidence that life is strange, allow me to suggest a trip to the California desert.
An ocean in the middle of the desert? Weird. Magically appearing chicken sandwiches? Weirder. Building a hot air balloon to fly your message of god through the skies and then spending decades building a Dr. Seuss-like monument in 100 degree heat after your balloon strands you in the desert? Weirdest.
Visiting the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain is like a fairytale in day trip form. In the space of only a few hours, we faced love, death, decay, joy, tangled hair, and many improbable things. We got rained on, baked in the sun, handed inexplicable chicken sandwiches, and waved at passing trains while playing music at obnoxious decibels.
But what I really came away with was the somewhat disquieting fact that I identify with this dude more than I care to admit.
I’m not huge on the god terminology – everything I’ve heard about god from mainstream religion makes him sound like a melodramatic Santa Claus – but a guy spending his life doing odd things in the desert to promote love? Sure. I’m down. If he was still alive, I’d give him one hell of an enthusiastic fist bump.
After walking the yellow brick road up a mountain made of cement and straw, we stood in the shade of a cartoon forest and talked about the idea of dedicating your entire life to one idea, one belief. If any of us could relate to the compulsion to spend your entire life in the heat of the desert building a tacky yet somehow lovely mountain dedicated to what you hold most sacred.
I didn’t say anything at the time because I was about thirty seconds away from passing out (bringing extra water to the desert apparently doesn’t occur to me), but I felt like I could relate. Not to building a gaudy mountain in the sand – I’m a delicate peony who only uses her hands to type things. But I do believe you can devote your life to one idea and one method of sharing that idea. You just have to really believe in both.
Writing is the only thing I’ve ever considered doing with my life. There was never a plan B. Someone once told me, “You have your medium, but not your message.” Turns out the medium was the path to the message. Through my writing, I found the idea I would happily dedicate my entire life to. Figures that it would closely resemble an idea propagated by someone who looks flat-out insane in the right light.
Sometimes genius looks like insanity. Sometimes a hot road looks like water. Sometimes you find a sea in the desert. Sometimes you don’t know what to think about something you see, you just know you feel a kinship with it.
What I do know is that the more love there is in the world, the more the world will heal. I believe that whatever you do with your life, whatever the details are, you should devote it to love, whatever that means to you. Loving yourself, loving your people, loving what you do. The more we all do that, the more it fans out around us and the more the world changes.
We’re all building something in our own personal desert. We just have to find it. Maybe it’s where you’re going. Maybe it’s where you’ve fallen and can’t get up. Or maybe it’s just exactly where you are now.