PlanetWalk John Francis
I'm using the link to the article on Matt Griffith's Tour Tales site because Planetwalk.org was down. "Meet the man who spent 17 years in silence and eschewed cars for 22"
I found an excellent interview with John Francis.
Here are some excerpts I liked the most:
The environmental pilgrim says he took his vow of silence as a gift to his community "because, man, I just argued all the time." But it may have been Francis who benefited most of all. For the first time, he found he was able to truly listen to other people and the larger world around him, transforming his approach to both personal communication and environmental activism.
"Most of my adult life I have not been listening fully. I only listened long enough to determine whether the speaker's ideas matched my own. If they didn't, I would stop listening, and my mind would race ahead to compose an argument against what I believed the speaker's idea or position to be."
That was one of the tearful lessons for me. Because when I realized that I hadn't been listening, it was as if I had locked away half of my life. I just hadn't been living half of my life. Silence is not just not talking. It's a void. It's a place where all things come from. All voices, all creation comes out of this silence. So when you're standing on the edge of silence, you hear things you've never heard before, and you hear things in ways you've never heard them before. And what I would disagree with one time, I might now agree with in another way, with another understanding.
How we relate to one another is essential to environmentalism. If you're not talking about human rights, economic equity, mutual respect, you're not really dealing with the environment. Trees are wonderful. Birds and flowers are wonderful. They're all part of the environment. But we're part of the environment too and how we treat each other is fundamental.
Finally one of the women said, "Why are you afraid of riding in cars? Is it a religious thing?" And I said, "No, it's not religious." "Is it a spiritual practice or something?" I said, "No." She says, "Well, it's principles, huh?" And I grab onto that: "Principles! Yes, it's principles!" And she tells me, "Honey, if you can suspend your principles for five minutes, we can drive your butt to the hospital." And I think about it and all I come up with is, "I don't think principles work that way. You can't just suspend them for five minutes." Eventually, they let me walk.
In 1994, after 22 years, you decided to ride in vehicles again. Why?
Walking had become a prison for me. While it was appropriate to stop walking when I did, over the years it had calcified, because I never revisited my decision not to ride in cars. [One day,] as I was walking, I thought about the fact that I had worked at the Coast Guard, I had worked on the Exxon oil spill. And if they had said to me, "John, we could hire you, but you have to ride in a car and fly a plane," I would have said, "I'm sorry, I guess I can't work for you then." And that would have been the wrong answer. So I decided I needed to break out of the prison.