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Uncertainty Can Be a Guiding Light

Or How I Learned to Love the Future Unknown. An inside look at the goings on at a Neophiliacs Anonymous meeting.

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Hello, my name is Greg and I am a neophiliac.

Chorus: Hello Greg.

Ummm, sorry. This is my first meeting. I guess I am not sure what to say next.

Group leader: why don’t you tell us what being a neophiliac means to you.

Neophilia, from the Greek “neo” meaning new and “philie” meaning loving is a term coined by counterculture cult writer Robert Anton Wilson to describe a personality type characterized by a strong affinity for novelty. A neophile is someone who has an ability and desire for rapid and constant change and a distaste of repetition and routine.

Group leader: Sure, Greg, that’s the standard definition of a neophile. But how has being a neophiliac impacted your life? What does it mean to you PERSONALLY to be a neophile?

I love beginnings and endings. I love that feeling of being undefined, that period of uncertainty. I love the rush of knowing that anything can happen. Sure, it is often a scary period, but it is also quite enthralling.

See, I’ve just started this new position in Phoenix, Arizona. I’d never been to Phoenix before. I’ve never worked at this company, or worked with anyone at the company before. I don’t know anyone in Phoenix. Despite all that, I arrived and by the end of the first day felt completely and totally at ease with the situation. Despite having to jump right in to a completely unfamiliar situation in an unfamiliar place with a bunch of people I’ve never met, it felt completely and totally right.

Part of me thinks that perhaps it is just practice, years of travelling and consulting, meeting new people in unfamiliar situations has made me an expert at it, but then another part of me… Well, I guess that’s why I searched out this Neophiliacs Anonymous meeting. I think perhaps I am addicted to change.

Applause from the group.
Group Leader: Good for you Greg. That’s a tough admission to make.

See, I recently moved abroad without really much of a plan other than to live in the United Kingdom. Some people might call that crazy, but it all seemed perfectly sane to me. Throughout this period, I have kept having a line from one of my favourite songs repeating in my head. It’s from the 1993 song by U2 called “Zooropra,” the title track from the album of the same name.

Don’t worry, baby. It’s gonna be alright. Uncertainty can be a guiding light.

Despite the fact I am in a period when everything has changed and the future is unknowable, it’s all fine. I feel that not having a plan for the future can be a plan for the future. Just sitting back and letting the currents of life take you where they may is the only path you need to determine.

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You know, in the same song, there are some more lines that really speak to this affliction. The singer Bono seems to be trying to reassure a scared listener, anxious about a world of constant change.

And I have no compass, and I have no map
And I have no reasons, no reasons to get back
And I have no religion, and I don’t know what’s what
And I don’t know the limit, the limit of what we’ve got

We may not know what the future holds and we have no guides to direct us through the future, but at the same time that means that the future could hold anything. There are no limits to our future.

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I think that’s what I like so much about those periods of beginning and ending – the sense that there are an infinite number of possibilities. Once you are settled in to a situation, whether it be a job, a relationship of a place to live, the potential outcomes narrow to a more definable collection. Having a clearer vision of the future can be reassuring, but it also can feel limiting.

Life is a constant struggle between searching for the new and seeking out the known, the struggle between neophilia (desire for the new) and neophobia (fear of the new). For me, I find that I skew more towards the desire for the new.

I am sure it is one of the things that attracted me to consulting; the constant churn of starting a new project in a new city with a new group of people every 6 to 9 months feeds the desire for the new pretty impressively.

I realized last week that this neophilia is probably one of the reasons that I like to travel so much, both for business and for pleasure. I mean, I have travelled a lot over the past 8 years, and I have actual written 200 blog entries about places I have been and the things I have seen. Wow, that’s a lot of travel, eh?

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Why do I love travel? Travel is all about going to new places, meeting new people and seeing new things. And, if there is one thing that you can be sure of when planning a trip, it is that something along the way will not go right. They only certainty in travel plans are that they are uncertain.

Yeah, I’m sure of it now. The only guides I need in my life are uncertainty, and maybe the Lonely Planet.

Group leader: Well, Greg, that’s a great start. As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Ummm, problem? What do you mean? I don’t have a problem.

Wait, you all think neophilia is a problem? I thought this was a group to meet like minded people and make travel plans!

Ah well, my mistake. Sorry about that.

So, I have to get going. I am planning a trip this weekend to do some hiking in the canyons in Arizona . Anybody wanna come?

No, okay. Your loss.

Listen, I gotta run. There is still a lot of world out there to see and a lot of new things to experience. Have to get at it now, time is ticking away.

As Bono sings in Dirty Day, another track from the 1993 U2 release Zooropa…

The days, days, days run away like horses over the hills.

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Posted by GregW 19:01 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad travel_philosophy migration_philosophy

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“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.” ~ Jacques Cousteau

Keep the stories coming globe-trotter! =-)

by Bwaybaby10

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