My family and I recently spent 12 days out west, visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, with short visits to Bryce and Arches National Parks. We ventured across most of the Colorado Plateau, absorbing the landscape and contrasting this radically different world to our home in Atlanta.

At Arches National Park, in the visitor center, I picked up the book Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Abbey was once a park ranger in Arches and this book is full of his observations about desert and outdoor life. Abbey became a traveling companion for the rest of the trip, and I’m still chewing on his words upon my return.

Abbey spoke a lot about opening horizons and perspectives:

A weird, lovely fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch, has the curious ability to remind us - like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness - that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here in earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.

We were exposed to many new marvels, horizons and perspective on our trip. Whether on top of Canyon Overlook in Zion. Or hiking up the Narrows of the Virgin River. Or hiking down into the Grand Canyon to Cedar Point. Or turning a corner on the highway somewhere in southeastern Utah, seeing the grand expanse of the Colorado Plateau laid out below.

These different perspectives provided a shock of the real: “For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels.”

I love the idea of the shock of the real: a different perspective that shakes me to appreciate my place in the world, to see that this world is a world of marvels. These marvels rip me away from the screen in my pocket, away from my current operating model. And shocks me into recognizing the amazing diversity of the world out there.

Or does it?

I really want to believe that a trip like this will widen my horizons in new ways that will make me a better and more creative person once I return.

I really want to believe that once I get back home, I will be inspired to do things differently.

I want to believe the shock of the real will drive me to new creative avenues, new ideas, and new perspectives at work.

But here’s the reality: It’s not that dramatic.

My approach to work continues: a slow grind of trying to do good work, and trying find new ways to make an impact. It continues. Day after day.

And that’s OK.

I still choose to believe that the shock of the real will have an impact. I believe that these amazing views of nature’s majesty enriches in me in many ways.

But the shock of the real doesn’t lead to a snap transformation. The shock of the real is not a thunderclap. Instead, these experiences out west will slowly and incrementally open up new perspectives for me and, eventually, new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.

And that’s all I can hope for.

technologist, cultural omnivore, book nut, father

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