There is space between meetings where I try to catch my breath. Sitting in an office in front of computer for most of the day, giving presentations, writing code, planning budgets, it can, from time-to-time force me to lose perspective. That’s when I look for those spaces between meetings. Sometimes it’s just seven minutes, sometimes five, sometimes fifteen. I’ll use those moments, when feeling overwhelmed, to take a breath, and travel back to some of the amazing places I’ve been.
I was reminded of one of those places recently while reading the January 2017 issue of Down East Magazine: “The magazine of Maine,” as it is known. I began subscribing to the magazine last summer, so that I could keep a piece of Maine with me all year round. I was reading Franklin Burrough’s “Room with a View” column, and was struck by the opening paragraph:
In college, I learned that Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic philosopher who considered water the primary principle of life. On that basis, I felt an affinity. More recently, I discovered he was also an astronomer who described how to use the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to locate Polaris, True North.
I learned about Thales of Miletus in high school. I was taking a philosophy class, and the focus was less on Thales the man, and more on his pre-Socratic philosophy. I remember learning that philosophy well, but the man, his life, and the city in which he lived, Miletus, meant nothing to me.
Long after high school, I had a chance to spent 3 weeks in Europe. My parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and we all went on a 12-day cruise that took us from Italy to Croatia to Greece to Turkey and back to Italy. There were day tours at all of the ports, and I remember scanning for interesting ones. When I saw the tours for Turkey, I knew at once which one I would take: the tour to Miletus.
I set out early on a scalding hot day, aboard a bus that took us from the port city of Kusadasi on a long ride south to Miletus. By the time we reached the ancient city temperatures had soared to 105 F. Not much remained of a city whose wealth and splendor was at its peak 2,300 years ago. But the theater of Miletus remained.
I walked around the theater, stepping over large fallen stones, seeking relief in the long vomitoriums. I put my hand on the cool stone surface in the shade and marveled that Thales himself might have leaned against this very stone on a hot summer day. There was something surreal about being there, as if I had somehow traveled back in time. I could still see the air-conditioned bus in the parking lot, and my fellow tourists wandered the theater with digital cameras in hand. I wondered what the sky looked like at night from here. I imagine the stars looked no different than they did in Thales day.
These are the kinds of thoughts I conjure in the space between meetings. And I remind myself that there are countless other remarkable places to see. Then I take a breath and prepare for the next meeting, feeling a little bit better.