Carnett: Savor the moment, savor the journey

Is life, as some suggest, a brief episode between two oblivions?

I choose to think not.

My personal belief is that life is a journey into the unknown that can lead to a better destination.

That philosophy, I submit, begets hope — and hope, as one of my mentors once described it, is the promise of long-term gain. Hope, he further elucidated, is an anchor for the soul that most humans can't live without.

I know I can't.

A couple of weeks ago my wife, Hedy, and I spent a weekend at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, deep in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

We were searching for some quiet "reflection" time, and we found it. The prophet Isaiah once wrote: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." We walked some lovely paths in the breathtaking 1,200-acre Graham sanctuary.

Do you ever feel the need to get away from the clutter of modern culture? If you do, you're far from alone in that desire.

The same weekend that my bride and I were on the mountaintop in North Carolina communing with God and His stunning nature, a crazed gunman killed three unsuspecting innocents a few hundred miles to our south in Auburn, Ala. Dozens died that same weekend in the ongoing carnage in Syria.

The world seems often to intrude on our quiet moments of hope. Life's unpredictability can overwhelm us.

Hedy and I began our journey of reflection from our daughter's home in eastern North Carolina, driving 375 miles west to the mountains of eastern Tennessee. We visited Pigeon Forge, home to Dolly Parton's Dollywood amusement park, and we stopped in scenic Gatlinburg, smack dab in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains. It's known worldwide as "One of America's Prettiest Towns."

We caravanned with our daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren.

We spent time in the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The heavily wooded Smokys are very different from our jagged western peaks — but equally awe-inspiring.

After several days with the kids, Hedy and I parted company with them and drove east 100 miles to Asheville and the retreat center at the Cove. The three-day experience focused on "Living Fully in the Present."

Most of us are adept at living for some future moment that may or may not materialize. I've spent a lifetime doing just that. My career was based upon dismissing present successes for the purpose of building structures to guarantee greater future laurels that, if actually achieved, would bring little pleasure because of even further-off aspirations.

What foolishness.

Did I even understand the concept: Savor the moment? Not really. There was always something ahead to shoot for. As a result, my hectic, task-oriented life sped by with barely a moment of quiet reflection or self-examination.

The opposite of my experience is the person who constantly lives life trapped in the past. If life's travails break body or spirit, individuals run the risk of living life looking in the rear-view mirror.

What futility.

I needed this retreat more than most.

"We're 'human doings' rather than human beings," our facilitator quipped. "We need to focus on our journey rather than our destination. Control is an illusion; no one has control over anything. This moment is all we have, and we need to relish it."

Here, here!

His words resonated within my spirit all weekend. I endeavored to process what he had to say.

After leaving the Cove, Hedy and I returned to our daughter's North Carolina residence for a few days before returning to California. We had one final important item on the agenda.

Our three granddaughters, ages 6, 9 and 11, were performing in their annual dance school recital. We attended for the fourth year in a row.

This year, however, Hedy and I viewed things differently.

We spent the entire performance savoring!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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