Once, for work, I was sent to Vienna with my writer/partner, Ace. We stayed there for about a week, working in a branch office all day. In the evenings, I wanted to see the city, but Ace didn’t. Somehow, though, he got it in his head that he had to chaperone me. He was about ten years my junior.
He “didn’t want to come,” he said, but “he thought it would be a good idea to keep an eye on me.” So, unasked and uninvited, he accompanied me around Vienna every evening.
Now, the part that cracks me up – and the reason I still remember that week today, some twenty years later – is the way in which that accompaniment manifested itself: Ace walked about 3 yards ahead of me, diagonally turned in my direction, talking about work, all the while hemming me in against the buildings we were passing. It wasn’t so much as a sight-seeing trip as a mode of suffocation. I don’t believe Ace saw a single site in Vienna the whole time we were there.
A few weeks later, I started to put the pieces together. This partner of mine had never been away from his home town of Treviso before. I also discovered that he still lived with his parents. I, on the other hand, had lived away from home for many years, in many different cities and countries. So my “chaperone” who said he was “protecting me” turned out to be the one who needed my protection. I suddenly understood why he never left my side. Everything began making sense.
I guess I bring this up today because it’s such a beautiful metaphor for how our minds “chaperone” us around the world, talking to us about yesterday and about tomorrow, worried about everything, trying to convince us that we need its input and opinion on everything. It stands, just like Ace, about 3 yards ahead of us, distracting us the whole time and actively blocking our view of what’s around us. Blocking us from what’s new, what’s exciting, what scares it.
And what scares the mind the most? The present moment.
Nowadays, whenever I find myself travelling with others (or even with my own mind), I simply say, “Sure, you can come, but you have to stand next to me.
That way we discover the world together.”