Ian is a Mount San Antonio College student. His major is Aviation Science.
For the pdf of this essay click the following link: E1A #3 Running on empty
The spacing in the essay below has not been adjusted for this format, so the lines of sentences may be incorrect. This is an “A” essay.
17 July 2018
Running on Empty
In the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior , the author, Dan Millman takes us along in
his autobiography, which may or may not include a bit of fiction. The book takes place primarily
at a gas station, or more aptly; “a service station”. As it is put in the book, “It was a bright
fluorescent oasis in a darkened wilderness…” (Millman 6). Dan is in need of an overhaul. The
book is truly about the internal changes Dan must make; in the head and heart, not the physical
places and locations. These are big ideas, which this writer will not begin to tackle in this paper,
although maybe slightly. Nevertheless, the space we inhabit does matter, either positively or
negatively. Our places of meditation, places of restoration, and places of change all have
significance, whether they are divine, man made, or natural.
Think about what do we do at a service station; we get gas, get refreshments, get bladder relief,
and a chance to stretch our legs. Then we are off on our travels. Back to work, back to home, or
if we are lucky; on an adventure. As described by Dan in the book, the office of the gas station
was “… so different from the sterility and disarray of the usual gas station…. what struck me
most of all was the homelike atmosphere of the room… the soft incandescent glow of the lights
calmed me. It was a relaxing contrast to the fluorescent glare outside. Overall, the room felt
warm, orderly, and secure.” (Millman 7). The night attendant at the service station becomes
Dan’s teacher/sensei/master/mentor, whom Dan gives him the nickname of the ancient Greek
philosopher, Socrates. Throughout the book, Socrates treats the incoming customers to the
service station with a great deal of reverence. This is perhaps his temple. He is also seen
throughout servicing automobiles, bringing them back to life as it were, along with the
occasional lost boy or girl. We may have everything in perfect order but sometimes we never
know what internally may be in need of repair. And sometimes we just need to be refilled. The
gas station was definitely a Dojo (a place of the way) for Dan.
The Writer and Mythologist, Joseph Campbell tells in the book The Power of the Myth of the
importance of having a sacred place. As he conveys “This is a place where you can simply
experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative
incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and
use it, something eventually will happen…” he also asks “Where is your bliss station? You have
to try to find it” (Campbell 115). This writer finds the service stations of today an unappealing
place to venture, unless my stomach or bladder warrants it. A grotesque collection of thousands
of different labels of overpriced food, if one could call it food. Besides, theses days this writer
has an electric car, so I have no need for gas. But I indeed could some refreshment from time to
time but in their current state, only when absolutely necessary. Not hardly a bliss station, that lies
in a different neck of the woods.
Late in the book Dan heads for the Sierra Nevadas of California. Without spoiling any of the
book, Socrates and Dan hike through the mountains to “… a special mound, a holy place, the
highest plateau in many miles” (Millman 194). Unless the reader has been robbed of nature up
till this point it is not necessary to explain what nature does for the soul. It is life, clear and
present, death and resurrection, complete and unabashed. Welcoming anyone willing, back to
reality, back to life. It is hard to describe places of natural beauty, one who knew how was the
conservationist and naturalist, John Muir. He described the Sierras in his book, My First Summer
in the Sierra like this “… out of sight of camp and sheep and all human mark, into the deep
peace of the solemn old woods, everything glowing with Heaven’s unquenchable enthusiasm.”
and “And when they are fairly within the mighty walls of the temple and hear the psalms of the
falls, they will forget themselves and become devout. Blessed, indeed, should be every pilgrim in
these holy mountains!” (Muir 24). Solem, temple, psalms, holy, all religious terms to describe
what he saw, but more importantly what he experienced. This writer cannot describe in words
other than it is a feeling. Walking along the beach but with no destination. Staring into the ocean
but not to see anything. We cannot always explain it, and we may not know why exactly but we
do know what it does. And only the individual can know what and where that is.
What is it about of physical location and aesthetics that affects us? Studies have shown that the
colors of the walls can change our moods. A baby is more likely to cry if the room they are in a
room that has a yellow wall. Fast food restaurants have used architectural techniques to
encourage people to eat more and eat faster. The well known American Architect, Frank Lloyd
Wright, went so far as telling people what chair to sit in and even what napkin rings to use. In
Way of the peaceful warrior, Dan, describes the details of the office as such “A bright yellow
shag rug ran its length, stopping just short of the welcome mat at the entry. The walls had
recently been painted white, and a few landscape paintings lent them color. (Millman 7).” and
“The couch I was sitting on was covered by a faded but colorful Mexican blanket… Behind a
small, dark brown walnut desk was an earth-colored, corduroy-upholstered chair. A spring water
dispenser guarded a door…” Why? What good does it do the reader to describe it, without giving
an argument either way, he does, and there must be reason he does so. In an interview of Ken
Burns, the Director the Documentary Frank Lloyd Wright, in speaking of Wright he puts it “He’s
asking you to rethink what a house is and how we live. Architecture’s the most important art
because it’s working on us all the time. And we don’t choose to go to it. It’s there with us all the
time… It’s workin’ on us now… every moment of his life, insisted that we wake up and that he
was going to provide the tangible evidence of how we might rearrange our lives to live better and
more organically. “ (Burns 02:15). It should be said that Wright had a great reverence for nature,
he is quoted to have said “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature”. Even in this writer’s own
home a constant effort is being made to put the right thing in the right place, to make the right
space. In a sort of pseudo Feng Shui; furniture will be moved out of the walk ways, for ease of
movement. Obstructions to the view outside, removed. Mirrors added to open the space and
reflect light. Not knowing initially what to do but finding over time what makes it a little more
inviting and a little more like home.
Energy dwells everywhere, the trick is to know where to find the energy we are searching for. It
may be found in a service station, high in the mountains, or in the details. If we are feeling a little
empty, it is best to find a bliss station ASAP.
Burns, Ken, Frank Lloyd Wright . Charlie Rose, 1998. < http://charlierose.com/videos/7725 >.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of the Myth. MJF Books, 1988.
Millman, Dan. Way of the Peaceful Warrior. HJ Kramer, 1980.
Muir, John. My First Summer in the Sierra. The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1911.