I. Separation Rites (Phase 1)
“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like [the] sandpiper — just running down the edges of different countries and continents, ‘looking for something’, having spent most of my life timorously seeking for subsistence along the coastlines of the world.”
— Elizabeth Bishop; Words in Air
In early 2012, I was at a dinner with my work team in Silicon Valley. It was an unusually warm late-winter evening in shimmering downtown San Francisco as we settled around our large center table in a popular and packed Italian restaurant. We’d had a long few days at an off-site conference working through some complex issues related to a newly announced business transformation program. Amidst the clinking of dinnerware and happy chatter all around us, the much-needed glasses of wine helped ease us into lighter non-work banter. Someone — it might even have been me — started a conversation asking everyone what they would do work-wise if they had the absolute freedom of choice. That is, if money, time, talent, and skill were no object, what would they rather be doing instead?
Slowly, shyly, each one of these people, with whom I worked daily, opened up about their deeper joys: gourmet cooking; ice-cream making; theatrical singing/performing; organic farming; fashion blogging, etc. The animated faces, wistful voices, resigned smiles, and gentle shrugs — their entire range of honest emotions will stay with me forever. It was one of those sudden time-stood-still moments and, within it, we had stumbled unexpectedly onto a crucial personal connection: the universal human desire for deeper meaning and purpose in our lives.