As part of my professional development this summer, I was in a writing workshop and we were asked to do a quickwrite from Charles Bukowski’s “The Lucky Ones”

A specific line from the poem resonated with me –

“… most with their radios on as loud as possible as they try not to think or remember”

I have noticed this trait in myself. The default to autopilot. Whether it comes through constant engagement with media, or just settling in to life patterns that are known, practiced and routinized. It is at these times that imperceptibly, I’m letting my mind go to cruise control. Letting the media tell me what is going on. Tell me what to think. Tell me what to do. It is so much easier if someone just tells me – because I’m a “doer”.

There is a satisfaction in getting things done.
Off of my to-do list.
Mission accomplished.
Bring on the next task.
One after another.

But I have come to realize
This default mode,
The pattern of doing,
without thinking
or reflecting
This is slavery.
This is comatose.

My family needs me to be present.

My students need me to be in the moment.

My friends and colleagues need me to be engaged.

They all need me. Awake. Alert. Alive. 

I want freedom. Freedom from dullness. Freedom from being shrouded in a cloud of everyone else’s thinking; everyone else’s direction, and missing the chance to explore my own.

I want to know
what I think,
what I believe.
and why I do, what I do.

I can only know that through reflection.
Purposeful time to ponder.
To be.

I make that time when I am running.
I set that time aside when I am writing.
I prioritize that time when I am reading.
This is where I come alive.
This is where I think.
This is where I find my voice — a voice that I can shout to the world, even if nobody else is listening, even if everyone else is trying hard not to think, or remember.

I want to remember. I want to know. I want to LIVE fully aware, thinking, asking, and learning.

Because I remember the words of Dr. Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Living in default mode,
Is not living.
I’m switching off the autopilot.
Ready for this plane to swerve a little.
A little turbulence reminds me I’m living.

4 thoughts on “Autopilot

  1. Love the message of your post (and how you’ve written it)! Certainly has hit home with me, and I will be working hard this school year to reset my own default!
    Thanks for sharing! #compelledtribe


  2. Love the line, “a little turbulence reminds me I am living.”

    That default to auto pilot is a lulling siren frequently for me personally and professionally. This reflection is a strong imperative to make that think and focus time for ourselves AND to carve it out in our days to nurture our students too.


  3. Turbulence means you’re growing . . . in the right way. Congratulations on articulating a very salient point, and one that leaves me examining my own life. Well done, friend. #compelledtribe


  4. Two words that have gotten away from American culture: ponder and tinker. Both reflect “down- time” for thinking and doing. This post will hit home with SO many, Greg. I know I found me in there.
    Well done!


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