Thursday, June 02, 2005


If life is a journey then we certainly like traveling the roads we know. Our daily routines, all safe and structured, beginning with waking up, our morning ablutions, perhaps breakfast before the insane rush to work or school, then intellectual or physical work with little variation, followed inevitably by the commute home or a scheduled side trip to the mall or the store to pick up sundries, then dinner with family or in solitude, perhaps a little TV, conversation, a book or a bit of writing, then bath, bed and dreamland – all of these are the equivalent of familiar paths and byways, memorized routes and known scenery. If someone were with us, we could easily say, “We’re almost there” or “Turn left at the intersection” or “Don’t walk that way, the road gets iffy.”

In this safe world of well-known thoroughfares, we know our way around. We learn to be blind to the side streets and move past odd corners. In fact, we spend much of our lives trying to get to the point where we know where everything leads to, and exactly how to get home. There is comfort in routine, comfort in contentment and comfort in being sure of finding your way to a place you know like the back of your hand, even when blindfolded.

We perform routines because they are safe. The map is firmly embedded in our heads and we have traced our way millions of times, certain of our itinerary. We exert effort to eliminate surprises because such things, being unpredictable, have the potential to create chaos.

While I subscribe to the concept of contentment, I do so only to a certain degree. It is fine to be appreciative of what you have, to count your blessings, to hold up photographs and to sit back with a glass of wine and be thankful, but after that moment of introspection, that time of blissful thankfulness, my mind starts to toil and I think of the opportunities I can create, the paths I could choose to take, the mysterious roads that are but a step away from where I rest my feet.

If I have walked every inch of this territory, then I must break new ground and extend my awareness of the network of paths that crisscross into my life. If I do not do so, then I will be trapped in the current set of circumstances, the current address which may not represent the best my abilities can get me. Even if things are fine, it’s only okay for now. I cannot afford to sit around.

I am not big on pure contentment. I believe contentment is for the cows on the side of the road, happily munching on the grass. It’s a fine life, granted, but it’s not for me – I do not want to spend my life chewing cud. Apart from providing for the present and future of my wife and my daughter, I need to provide for my inner self, for my spirit.

I’d rather act, consider my options, take a deep breath and stride down a new path and build a new business. Or father another child. Or write a new novel. Or learn an unknown language. Or produce a comic book. Or push an agenda. Or take a cause to heart. Or question my circumstances. Something different, something new, something unfamiliar, something potentially rewarding.

I’ve learned to be unafraid of strange roads because my decision to walk to them is reached only after much thoughtful consideration. I reign in my curiosity, my impulsive nature, my derring-do, with harsh truths and imagined consequences. If I think I can do it, if I believe that I have a chance at being a success at whatever it is, if it challenges my ability to write, to think, to act, to create, to discover, to profit, to grow, to change, then I will not take a timorous step - I will take a big stride and place a foot firmly down. Then take another step. And another. Until I get to where I want to go.

But there are many paths I refuse to take, even if I think I can get away with it. Brightly lit sidewalks that shimmer with the allure of things I do not want to pay for, with experiences I choose not to afford. These paths are tempting because they seem so easy to walk, they pull at you with their downhill steepness and imply little or no effort required. Another woman, abandoning the businesses, chemical explorations into the psyche, not writing, not competing, not trying, not struggling. All of these paths run counter to how I’ve determined to live my life. They are simply unpalatable, obviously ruinous, despite their easy appearances.

There are paths we walk everyday because we’ve decided to walk those roads. There are byways that branch out that offer a respite from the known ways but are potentially imprudent to explore. And they are roads that challenge us, promising better scenery, more fertile ground and wide new vistas to discover – even if sometimes they do not fulfill our expectations. Even if sometimes they lead to a disappointing place.

I walk the roads I’ve built, ignore the ones that I’ve chosen to neglect, and blaze a trail to new and different places I want to stake out as territory.

It is impossible to go places without moving; this is how I know to live – to run, to push, to climb, to compete, to strive, to persevere, to quest, to study, to learn, to struggle, to love beyond my capacity and to jump when its time to jump.

The day I stop doing so is the day I surrender the map of my dreams, permit the sweat to get in my eyes and curse the sun.


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