Torch Article: Reverendly Yours - Rev. Tom Goldsmith

31 May 2019

It’s summertime, and the living may be easy, but can anyone find a vacation escape that isn’t overcrowded? Where did all these people come from who fill our national parks? Getting in is like lining up for a Taylor Swift concert? You need to apply for a seat on a bus that will take you through the park. The great outdoors are apparently not great enough to accommodate the masses who want to pour into them. 

The beaches along both coasts are so crowded the fish don’t go there anymore. Restaurants in downtown areas need reservations two weeks in advance. Recently I got the last bed in all of Winnemucca, Nevada. Not exactly a hotspot for tourist attractions. Ten motels had no vacancies. I finally got to one where the clerk said he had one room left. After I said I’d take it, he asked: “Do you want to see it?” As new people entered the lobby heading to the desk I screamed, “no,” just give me the room. He did, and I’m still thinking about whether or not I should have seen it first.

Broadway theaters are so full they’re commanding 4-digit ticket prices. Our own Salt Lake Acting Company is running out of season tickets. You can’t get a camping reservation in a state park. Where are all these people coming from and why are they all on the move?

Last week I learned that it was so crowded at the summit of Mt. Everest, you have to wait hours in a line, standing chest to chest on an icy ridge just inches away from a several-thousand-foot drop. Mind you, this is the most challenging mountain to climb in the world, which had already seen ten fatalities just this year. Scrambling up the 29,000-foot summit where you better have a good set of lungs if you hope to breathe, people (literally) step over dead bodies to get to the top and take a selfie before heading down. If Mt. Everest suffers from too many tourists, I can’t imagine a place in the world to go for that luscious sensation of solitude. Experiencing aloneness is at a premium, but you better book early if you want to find it at a Zen retreat center for a week of silence and meditation. And all you do there is look at a wall. It’s probably too late to do that for this summer.

Don’t get me wrong. I like people. My professional life is about people. But there’s a time I look forward to in the summer to just get away from crowds, noise, smells, lines, and exorbitant prices. My refuge in Bolinas now has wall-to-wall surfers. Who told them about Bolinas? I can’t even run away to Kathmandu anymore without having to endure masses of people. I wonder, are they all looking for solitude? If so, where does one go besides hiding in a closet at home. 

So it’s summertime and the living is easy. But don’t count on going anywhere unless you are drawn to long lines. So you might as well come to church during our Summer Forum program. But arrive early for the 10:00a.m. service. I hear its filling up. TRG