Travel in the Space Between Meetings

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.

Theater of Miletus
At the Theater of Miletus, July 2007.

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.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.