If we're awake to it, life's humor is everywhere, as environmental educator, artist and banjo player John Francis, Ph.D., would be the first to agree.
On the overcast spring afternoon when I meet the author of Planetwalker: Tips on how to Change Your World One Step At A Time, at his pastoral home in Point Reyes Station, California, a big truck delivers a model-new washer and dryer. In the ebb and circulate of life, the man who walked more than 25,000 miles over the course of three a long time, usually tenting below bridges and in farmers' fields, has turn out to be a householder, with a wife, 4-12 months-previous son, and two-automobile garage. For Francis, it's the latest turn of the wheel in a lifelong pilgrimage selling earth stewardship, environmental awareness and world peace, interdependent threads in life's weave.
Following within the inspirational footsteps of such planetwalkers as Peace Pilgrim, Gandhi, and Satish Kumar, Francis set out on a outstanding spiritual journey in 1972 — synchronistically, the identical 12 months the United Nations launched World Environment Day. A yr after discovering his toes, he voluntarily relinquished his voice to discover a deeper language beyond phrases. He stopped speaking on his twenty seventh birthday, which psychologists call the end of the "age of invincibility," once we first feel life's finitude.
Surrender is a pivotal element in pilgrimage, however the higher give up for Francis got here seventeen years later, when he consciously selected to re-enter the world of words, trusting himself to make use of them from a developed effectively of inner knowledge. He spoke again on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 1990, selecting the day specifically, "to keep in mind that now I might be talking for the surroundings."
Bridge Over Troubled Water
In a sense, Francis surrendered his voice to seek out it.
A non secular seeker from a younger age, Francis attended Catholic college and severely thought of the monastery as a vocation, "however I couldn't see the silence part," he says with a smile. When he arrived in California from his native Philadelphia on the shut of the '60s, he had simply dropped out of college for the third time.
He was learning Gandhi's life and works when the call to his quest arrived, a sonic increase. Two oil tankers collided, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of crude into San Francisco Bay. This devastation to the water component shook the sensitive Pisces to his core. What may he do about it? An concept bubbled forth: "We could stop riding in automobiles!" Nevertheless it seemed a monumental change to undertake.
Near a yr later, a fellow about his age drowned when the boat he and his family were in capsized in a sudden storm. To Francis, Jerry Tanner epitomized the nice life: a phenomenal wife and children, beautiful dwelling, great job, his entire life forward of him. Now it was over.
If the oil spill was the impetus, Tanner's loss of life was the catalyst that catapulted Francis onto his path of purpose and out of motorized transportation for the subsequent 22 years.
Initially, he simply knew he needed to discover what it meant to not use petroleum-primarily based sources of travel. By 1983, his process had crystallized into Planetwalk, a non-revenue organization, "dedicated to raising environmental consciousness and to promoting earth stewardship and world peace through pilgrimage." When he set out on this section of his journey, Francis deliberate on an 18-year strolling and sailing pilgrimage all over the world.
Into the Silence
It is axiomatic that when one embarks on a journey of personal transformation, those that are usually not ready to journey with you — actually or metaphorically — will often have a tough time assimilating your decision, and should attempt to undermine it. Francis discovered, to his shock and dismay, that some pals and neighbors thought he was walking to make them "look bad," or to show he was by some means superior.
He grew uninterested in defending his selection, and, after spending his 27th birthday in silent contemplation, the days with out speaking stretched to weeks after which months. He started to