The first part of a series of parts which make up the whole part of one part. Or something like that…
Paths have been used as metaphors for life for a really long time. King Soloman writes in Proverbs 3:6, ” In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (NASB), written some time after 970 BC. A fella by the name of Miyamoto Musashi wrote in his book, A book of Five Rings, “You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”. Musashi was a Samurai who lived in the 15-1600’s. Dude was legendary back in his day, and still is, with modern day warriors, as well as those of us who like to choke each other and punch one another in the face, for fun. I know that we could find countless examples from ancient history but I think these two get my point across well enough.
I don’t usually understand metaphors very easily. My thinking is very literal, kinda like Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy, and I usually don’t understand things until I can put my hands on whatever the thing is that I am trying to understand or I truly experience whatever it is that I am trying to understand. Understanding, to me, doesn’t mean that I read something or watch a video or hear someone speak of something, that is information or knowledge and not true understanding. To me, understanding means having information as well as experience. It is then that I understand. There was guy by the name of Heraclitus, who lived way back in the 500s BC. Heraclitus was a greek philosopher and though not much is really known about him, the dude had some good stuff to say. He is quoted as saying “Much learning does not teach understanding”. I agree with that statement and I think that our current level of discord in the world is proof that this is correct. We have much education but very little understanding.
This is how I think and process the world around me. I look for knowledge and then I look for experience before I can say that I understand something. Sometimes I try it the other way around, which rarely works out the way that I envision it to work and is usually followed by the phrase “well that was dumb” or some such phrase. This isn’t a conscious thought process or something that I have trained myself to do, it is just the way that my mind has always worked. It’s the way that my mind is programmed to operate and has, at times, made me seem to be a bit dull of thinking or a bit hard headed and stubborn. Well… I am hard headed and stubborn but thats a different story. The thing is, that when I get to the level of understanding, metaphors make sense. It’s as though a fog is lifted and I can then see clearly what is being stated through a metaphor.
So many people simply stop after gathering information or after acquiring experience and they don’t ever reach understanding. It isn’t that they are incapable of understanding, they choose not to reach understanding of what they do and why they do it.
The martial arts are as philosophical as they are physical and mental, maybe even more so. I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu several times a week and have come to understand life in a more philosophical way through this training. I can more clearly see the path that I have chosen for my life and how that relates to the path that others have taken.
So… With all of that being said, I understand the metaphor of the path. I’ve reached that understanding though martial arts and through reflection on my life; what I am good at and where I have succeeded, of what I have failed at and where I attempted to go down a path that I was never meant to go down. I can clearly see the path that I now walk and I can now clearly see when my path crosses with other paths. The fog has lifted and I can now see clearly which way to go and where my road signs, channel markers (for the more nautically inclined amongst us), and trail blazes are and where they lead. It makes sense to me now.
So allow me to share what I’ve learned so that maybe you can see what I’ve missed until recently. If you already know this stuff then perhaps I can offer you this page or perhaps this page to peruse whilst I ramble on. So let us proceed without further ado…
Paths lead to a destination, its just what they do and there is only room for one person at a time to walk on that particular path. Here again Heraclitus drops a knowledge bomb on us when he said, “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. That applies to a path as well. The path is not the same for each traveler even though it may appear to be. Once one person has walked on the path, the path has been changed in some way. Sometimes the change is small and seemingly unnoticeable and sometimes the path has been changed in a major way that makes it much harder for another to walk on. Regardless of the change to the path, the two travellers are not the same and they won’t interpret the paths the same. No one can walk the same path as another for no path is the same as another. It’s just the way that it is.
Sometimes paths cross and sometimes paths run parallel to other paths, but never really join. Still there are other times when paths do join to become one path which then leads to a common destination.
Paths sometimes have wide flat spots that are easy to walk on and then other times they can have steep treacherous spots which can be difficult to walk on. Sometimes they have comfortable places that seem beautiful and restful but can become boring and ugly if we rest in them too long. Kinda like a scenic view rest area along the interstate. They seem awesome while we are traveling but if we hang out there too long then we start to notice the trash everywhere and how boring the scene becomes and usually after only a short while, unless we get too comfortable… We need rest. We need the slow, wide, comfortable path at times, but we don’t need to stay in rest for too long. A body in rest will stay in rest until moved by some outside force. We must be the outside force that gets our bodies moving from the rest stop and back on the path.
The thing about paths is that they are already there. “What has been, it is what will always be, and what has been done, it is what will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB), There are people that have walked the path that we are on. There is nothing new here. However old that path may be there are times when we get lost because we take the wrong path or we start heading in the wrong direction or we get stuck and we need help getting back on track and moving in the right direction. It’s at these times that we have to consider the road signs and trail blazes that point us in the right direction. The thing about these road signs, channel markers, and trail blazes is that they can only point the way to go, they can’t help you when the path gets rough. There will always come a point in a path where the going gets rough and we then start to reach what we perceive to be our limit. But, if we take one more step when we feel like quitting, and then another after that and yet one more still, then we start to move through the rough part of the trail and we start to push that perceived limit a little further away.
I believe this to be a good stopping point for the time being. When I started writing this, or typing it as it were, I didn’t realize that I would have this much to say on the subject and as this blog post is starting to get a little longer than anticipated, I’ve decided that I am going to turn this into a series of posts so that I can continue my rambling in a way that may be easier to read and stay with, so check out “The Path, Part Duex” when it gets posted.