Stability Versus Mobility: Excerpts from Middling

I write an occasional newsletter (quarterly when I don't forget) to friends and family about my life: music, books, work, and getting older. I'd love to send it to you if you're game. What follows is an excerpt from the summer 2018 issue.


I was born during the summer. My due date was July 4—Independence Day—but I came early. Summer is when people make their exceptional plans: School’s out, so families can travel with minimal logistical complications. There are day camps and overnight camping, road trips to Disneys and bike trips to libraries. There are church camps and mission trips. Summertime is the time of the possible.

Kara and I went to Chicago this summer [2018], to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field (her first) with her family, and to see as many friends and family members as possible—preferably while eating food you can only get in Illinois. It was a good trip, made more poignant by the fact that we’ve now been Coloradans for nearly four years—if we had moved here as high school freshmen, we’d now be high school graduates—and that returning to Chicago is increasingly logistically complex. We’ve made a life here in Colorado, and there’s a cost to leaving it, even if only for a long weekend.

There was a time long ago when a friend and I were toying with a book idea: essentially, “settling down without settling.” That’s the sort of book in which your bias is demonstrated in the title. Try, for example, to apply synonyms to the major words there: “Arriving without declining,” maybe, or (my favorite) “plopping without flopping.” The underlying assumption is that to put down roots in a place is to slam the door shut on every other place, and that only the hypervigilant will retain a life of meaning once they’ve established a life somewhere.

I had a friend once tell me, “Never stay when God’s telling you to go,” and he’s right, of course, but even in such a high-minded statement the bias is present: Mobility is (probably) a more divine calling than stability. The more domesticated you are, the (likely) more docile you are.

The older I get the more I realize there’s no pithy proverb that can resolve our vocation for us. To stay is good, and there are responsibilities that come with staying; to go is good, and there are responsibilities there as well. There are risks, too, on either side, and so vigilance is required whether we are laying down roots or raising our sails. We are people of a place no matter how transient we are, and we are sojourners no matter how long we stay where we find ourselves.

In the meantime, we keep finding ourselves.

TWEET THIS: We are people of a place no matter how transient we are, and we are sojourners no matter how long we stay where we find ourselves.


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