20240603 Who are you, man, who are you really

Who are you, man, who are you really?

In the 1987 movie Barfly, Micky Rourke’s character is a soul-searching alcoholic who hangs out in bars pondering life’s mysteries. “Who are you?” a patron asks. “Ah, the eternal question” is Rourke’s response. On the 1976 album “One More from the Road,” Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant reflects on a reporter asking him, “Who are you, man, who are you really?” Van Zant’s response was to write the hit song “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” I am just returning from two weeks in Spain prompted by a birthday with a big round number, a wedding anniversary of increasing magnitude (we’ve almost been married for a long as we haven’t), and a burning desire to wrestle with some important questions like “Who are you, man, really?” and “What makes for a life well led?”  

Unlike the characters mentioned above, my wife and I were not searching for answers in bar rooms with distilled spirits. Our preferred drug is naturally occurring endorphins, the kind of thing you might expect to experience when you are challenged near your physical limits. Our trip started with a week of cycling in the Tramuntana mountain range on the north side of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea. We covered more than 250 miles in six days with about 24,000 feet of vertical climbing along some of the most picturesque roads imaginable. There were plenty of challenges, like the climbs up Sa Calobra (including 26 hairpin turns), or Puig Major (the highest peak in the range). There was plenty of sunshine, some wind and rain, and even a bit of hail. We were in a group of 18 cyclists plus a couple of superbly fit guides (cycling yogis, you might say) who made sure we stayed hydrated, well-nourished, and engaged with the local culture and customs.

Our cycling camp was headquartered on a 500 plus acre active family farm in a 300-year-old stone farmhouse that had been converted into a luxury hotel. The bleat of the sheep, the jingling of cowbells, and the centuries old olive groves made it a perfect place for reflection, recovery, and more new challenges.

Although we had a wide screen modern TV, we never turned it on. We tried to be judicious with our high-speed internet connection. The goal was to force a new perspective so we could spend some time thinking about bigger questions. We wanted to go “free range” in search of less noise and more signal.

So, what did we learn from all this? I wish there was a short, bulleted list I could share with you, but there is not. Here’s my take: Like everything else of value in this world, it’s complicated. Everyone has their own groove. And everyone is in danger of falling into a rut. It’s a good idea to pause now and then to take a deep breath and reflect on your groove and your rut. Try to find a way to freshen your perspective. Read something old. Talk to someone new. Drive a stick shift in a strange place. Find a way to tune out some noise and tune in some signal, whatever that means to you. And then get back to work pursuing a well led life. That’s what I’m hoping to resume, starting right now. . .

Mike Masters