Follow Your Gut (Strong Stomach Required)
Chapter 10 | Reader's Commentary
Chapter 10 takes us to the Zemunke family’s final moments in the home that both they and their fore-bearers had established deep roots in. From the peaceful shores of Lamu Island, a great transatlantic journey begins, as the family would find themselves in America’s Deep South, where a new chapter will certainly await them.
In this chapter we see three of our main characters making decisions, that have end results that could never have been planned. Jay’s love for the moving of people and things, leads him to take a job with a Kenyan transport company; a company that would become a worldwide drug empire lead by one of the most violent characters in modern drug trafficking history. Maskat, despite family pressures, and possibly a ton of very logical rebuttals, decides to stick with his love for computers for his course of study, which eventually leads him to the necessary healing and reclaiming of his own self, one of the most important things a person must do for a deep fulfilling existence in this planet… but few ever get to do it.
And the biggest decision of the three, we have Zemunke who decides to radically change every aspect of his and his family’s life, by taking a job in the United States and moving them across the world to do so, leaving behind everything they and their ancestors have ever known. I can appreciate this one, being the son of a couple who did just that (minus the kids). But the choice to move to a new land, culture, language, and way of life, is not for the faint of heart.
With the ancestors left behind in the family home, I reflect on Jay’s tragically hilarious question, who will be left to disappoint them?
So what propels people to make such big decisions in the presence of opposition and despite the unknowns ahead?
Following your gut is risky business
We’re taught from our earliest of ages, to explain and rationalize our feelings and wants. And in a hyper-rationalized world, we have become so disconnected with the true wisdom that lies in each of us. It’s a wisdom, that I believe, is rooted in the truth and intelligence of the universe. That is, of course, if you believe in the interconnectedness of all things.
But the hyper-individualized and über-rational western ideal, has permeated the four corners of the globe. And it is demanded of us to show up this way by our institutions, employers, friends and family. Even so, many of us will sometimes make a decision without enough data. We are scrutinized, given warnings, even ridiculed. It’s not because people are assholes (well, perhaps some are), but gut decisions challenge the rational insurance policies of our friends and families.
As the world attempts to re-open after 1.5 years of pandemic shut-down, we’re all having to ask ourselves, how do we want to be in this new world? How will we spend our time? Where will we live? We’re forced to reckon with ourselves after a year of pausing. And even worse, we’re expected to wrestle hard with these questions, when the answers are deep within.
I see this in many of my friends. Having to reconcile with jobs that just don’t feel right anymore. Having to figure out where on the planet to set up roots. Having to take leaps of faith to accept changes bigger than they’ve ever known, or even worse, disappoint those closest to them. And I feel their struggles, I know their struggles so deeply.
It’s not easy.
I reflect on many moments in life where I made a choice that made more sense in my heart than on paper. My sudden move to Nairobi, Kenya in 2006, lead to a wonderful job opportunity in Boston, and a real deepening of myself in men’s work. All while opening my eyes to global injustice and gave me a purpose to work for. My move to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 to set up headquarters for a startup, was informed by a break-up, and the deep need for change. Eventually, this gut decision directly lead to my own reconciliation and healing work, and I wonder how the fuck I lived so long without ever having done that. I had no inkling that these things were ahead of me at the time. All I had was a full-body “yes”, when it came to accepting those tasks at hand.
But each of these decisions came with the following:
An internal alignment around a decision once it was made
A great deal of fear right before each move
A decent period of adjustment and the frequent asking of “what the heck did I just get myself into?”
An eventual settling into the groove until…
Surrender brought forth some of the greatest synchronicities, coincidences, connections, and the occasional parasite.
Gut following: side effects include dry mouth, nausea, and the potential for living out your purpose.
I’m not advocating for turning our brains off. Some decisions require a ton of thought and contemplation. I’m calling to the options that shows up, that make our eyes light up, that call to our deepest yearnings. I’m also calling to the options that don’t get such a glamorous reception, but somehow it just makes sense to you, even if no one else can get their head around it. You know what I’m talking about. We need to get quiet enough to pay attention to how our bodies respond, and that’s the hard part.
Did Maskat, Jay, and Zemunke all do deep meditation as they contemplated their decisions? It’s unclear at this moment, but it’s true that some people have greater access to this feedback loop than others.
I wish I were one of those people. It would save a fuck-ton of time, I’ll tell you that.
Some fine print
Remember that wisdom I spoke about a few paragraphs ago? While our conscious minds may not have all the data, our subconscious which has a far greater understanding of things will absolutely conspire on our behalf, especially if we’ve been treating it right.
Following your gut in a way that leads to positive outcomes of course requires a healthy gut. A gut left unchecked, can lead to unintended side-effects. Shadowy motivations may take over, and drive a certain impulsivity that neither serves ourselves or those around us.
And one can say Jay’s seemingly innocent decision lead him straight into harm’s way, it’s clear once his life unfolds, that this was a path he also needed to be on.
So chapter 10 reminds me, that sometimes following our truth can lead us places we could never plan but may be exactly what we need. But it takes that degree of courage to go within and see what’s there, and an even greater sense of chutzpah to act on it.
As the Zemunkes’ exodus from Lamu opens new dimensions to their story, I’m reminded that it’s not only OK to look within ourselves for the answers, it’s so damn crucial to do so. Results may vary. Void where prohibited. But alignment with self, I’ve found, is the only road to peace and fully-realized potential.