Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Joy is in the Journey

White Trail is paved, the Red are Dirt paths.
I love maps.  I've said this before, numerous times, in fact.  I know three blogs ago I went on a rant against the uses of GPS, since it is much more exciting to get lost, to find your way home again.  And every time I come home from being cast adrift in this world, I get the map (which nowadays comes from Google's amazing map program) and I see where I've been. Then I know no matter when I arrive back at that place, I'll know where I am.  The GPS shows you only where you are going.  A map can also show you where you have been.  And more importantly, where you can go.  It puts the conditional tense into your life.  What path you can go down, and where will it ultimately take you.  For that, no GPS system will show you. 

Robert Frost probably best shows this in "The Road Not Taken," which if taken literally, is about someone walking a trail, and seeing it split in two, decides to take a path, to see where it leads.  Frost concludes that, while he must take one path, he will probably never take the other.  For either time or condition will never allow him to come back to that same spot, with those same leaves covering the ground. Or, if he would return, that he would not be the same traveller, having lived a life from the one fork to another.  I accept this, but I also know that I will return to that fork, and I'll take both paths, because a traveller looks down both paths, and takes one, and does not care where the other one leads.  I absolutely do care.  

It's almost like a case of OCD. Orson Scott Card wrote a character in The Children of the Mind who had a deep case of Obsessive Compulsive. She felt compelled to trace the wood grains in the floor of her room.  The trails in the map above look almost like the lines in a wooden grain, where roads follow rivers, where straight lines of electricity cross miles  of land, where brown trails of dirt split off like water droplets flowing down the side of the windshield.  There's an inescapable desire to follow that water drop all the way to the end, to see a path curving past your sight and want to know exactly where it goes.  I want to know.  And in the case of the trails I've been walking on recently (map above,) it means little how far the trail goes.... I want to see where it leads.  

Some people think walking is an method of exercise, as if going to the gym and walking around a track is going to somehow be a means to an end.  And I guess it is, if you're willing to sacrifice time for fitness.  Because walking around a circular track never takes you anywhere but where you already were.  You should never end up where you first began, as you as a person are not the same as when you first started the circle.  So go someplace different, walk a different path.  And when the path ends, continue it, step foot into the unknown and fell the branches in your way.  Take it to the lush openings of paradise that certainly exist, but never are seen because there is no paved walkway to it.  I should never walk a trail without a machete, never to turn back because a briar is in the way.  The explorers of the Amazon could not just stop because a plant blocked their path.  For the ends were fabulous riches, treasure at the end of their rainbow.  And even if they never found it, they must still keep going, as it was the journey that was just as important as the destination.  If the end is the same as the beginning, or if you are the same as in the beginning, then what is the point of starting out at all?  

It's the same about life, going from a literal trail to one of metaphor.  If you go to church, and you come out of the doors of that church at noon, and you have not changed, if nothing in your mind is different, then what was the point of walking down that path?  I would rather take my Bible, sit upon a rock in the middle of the South River and read from there, knowing that what is said would be something to think about, going to and from that rock.  And then my trip to the cafeteria will have been worth the effort.

So when I say I'm "going out for a walk," I have no intention of getting exercise.  That is but a fortunate side effect of my real intention.  I do what makes me happy, and that, at this point in my life, is to see where the trail goes (either literally or metaphorically).  I say that the Epicurean philosophy is the best one, as it measures happiness upon any choice.  Do I pick the ice cream sundae or the cheesecake? If knowing that ice cream will give me a sinus infection and make me ill for two weeks, I'll go with the cheesecake, for that is the path that provides happiness.  If being a teetotaler or going out and drinking every night are the decisions, and I realize that drinking will probably end up in some form of accident or grossness, or at the least, a headache.... I'll stick with my Mr. Pibb, thank you very much.   Because, as Candice from Phineas and Ferb has said, after a dream about going to the land of Oz and travelling to Bustopolis, the "Joy is in the Journey."  On a similar note, James Taylor wrote,  "The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time."  To me, that means walking down the trails of the gorgeous rural areas of Rockdale County instead of walking around some stupid track in a gym with a bunch of sweaty people.  And if I don't burn off 2,000 calories, well, that wasn't really my goal to begin with.  If at the end of that walk, if I happen to fall down dead, like the runner from Marathon to the gates of Athens, then I will have been happier walking down the paths of my own choosing.    

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