On Sunday, instead of watching the one-win Cleveland Browns end their season with another loss, I hopped in the van and headed to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).
While the CVNP is technically in the same league as the rest of the 59 National Parks, like the NFL's Cleveland Browns, much is left to be desired compared to the others on the list.
As a Cleveland native, the sights and sounds of the CVNP didn't come as a surprise. No grand landscapes or vistas were expected.
However, unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a hidden painted rock on my walk. The rock was consciously tucked into a split tree trunk as to pique a stranger's interest.
Beneath the rock was a message to Google "Northeast Ohio Rocks on Facebook" (shout out for the great advertising technique). The face of the rock itself had a painted Sun, and the message "JUST BE."
Just be. I could spend hours upon hours unravelling the philosophical connections that phrase has to this national park, my life, our lives. And because I can't sleep (the clock just struck 4 AM), I'll write a little bit of that down right now.
John Muir once wrote, on the topic of poison oak:
"Like most other things not apparently useful to man, it has few friends, and the blind question, "Why was it made?" goes on and on with never a guess that first of all it might have been made for itself. "
Indirectly, I believe the beauty of the above statement captures the essence of, just be. Though the park itself has at best unremarkable features by the standards of many others, maybe the CVNP was made for itself afterall.
The "ledges overlook", for instance, a main attraction, would be overlooked in most other national parks. But look at what one can miss while overlooking the overlook:
An unlikely Cleveland winter sun shines vibrantly on the past fall's leaves during the evening's golden hour of light.
Would I have ever taken the time to see the photo that was begging to be taken, had the vista not been so disappointing?
And when I apply that line of thought to my life, are the disappointments I encounter an opportunity to keep searching, or re-frame what I already have?
Perhaps an opportunity to keep searching for the unexpected doesn't elicit admonition. But I won't put a positive spin on that opportunity either.
What I'm trying to convey here, to wade in the waters of life will never preclude one from finding the bright side in any predicament. But that's not a particularly useful insight.
Why just be?
Why here? Why now? Why like this? Why not ask for more than this moment?
Why not start swimming instead of wading? Why not go to another National Park?
Is one really to believe that, in the case of the Cleveland Browns, wading through decades of losing seasons, decades of opportunities to keep searching for the positive spin on circumstance, that somehow, a one-win season in 2016 is "where they're supposed to be"?
Don't get me wrong, attitude is underrated. As someone once said, "most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be." I think that was even my senior quote in my high school year book. And I still hold it close.
But attitude doesn't cancel the losses.
Even now, as a man building a home in a van, living out an incomplete plan to become a millionaire, I have regrets that still unfold in real time. And though I'm not waiting to do some things, I've waited on others, and it's cost me people, experiences, that I want in my life, lost opportunities.
Instead of resolving to just be, perhaps we should take a nod from the Cleveland Browns, to keep track of the seasons, if only in a vague cautionary sense. You can just be living in the moment, but be warned, that yesterday's losses don't count towards tomorrow's game. Decades of losses can pile up before you know it, and destiny has got nothing to do with it.
Since Home Depot opens in an hour (6 AM), I'll probably stay awake and string the day together between caffeinated drinks. But I will leave you with this, more words from a specific philosopher whose name I cannot remember (or easily find on Google):
"If it isn't as much true as it is false, then it is nothing."
In this way I believe just be exists, as it is as true as it is false, and therefore not nothing.