I'll admit to a fondness for the metaphor that compares life to a journey. After all, any trip has a beginning, middle and end with the potential for lots of twists and turns, detours and roadblocks. If it is a road trip, there are smooth, fast lanes and axle rattling potholes. I like the imagery.
Obviously a whole lot of others like it too and there are slightly different iterations of the sentiment. A popular country music group, Rascal Flatts, sang "Life is a Highway. I wanna ride it all night long." A more subdued and famous version credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson says much the same: "Life is a journey, not a destination"
A journey is an easy way to describe the complexities of life and I tried to put Bruce Kramer's living with ALS into that box. After all, living with a disease or disability offered the same elements as a journey with its requisite twists and turns. Right?
It was something Bruce would gently push back on, always saying that his disease experience wasn't a journey it is simply life. I stubbornly persisted. In fact, during that first conversation for Minnesota Public Radio, I mentioned "journey" several times and it remains today, on themprnews.org website and the page where our series resides.
I can be taught.
I now see Bruce's point especially as it relates to a terminal illness. "Life as a journey" is a tired and inaccurate metaphor. A journey has a beginning and an end (Humans do too!) but our lives aren't as sequential nor is dis ease.
Our lives, Bruce contends, especially lives framed in disease, spiral in big, concentric, overlapping circles. Spiral up. Spiral down. Sure, it is a bit of a clique to describe life as a circle, but it is the spiral nature of life that Bruce talks about that holds truth. Spirals in and out and all at once. Lessons come back again and again. What you thought you knew changes. What you figured you put behind you, comes back and the experience can deepen if you recognize it and remain open to it's lessons.
Bruce has already picked the music for his memorial service. One of the songs was written for Bruce by his friend, Tom Koch. Tom is an accomplished musician who was also in one of Dr. Kramer's classes at the University of St. Thomas. This is a taste of this special song with the apt title: "This Ain't No Journey. " Tom Koch and I now know that life isn't a journey, thanks to Bruce Kramer.