On the Road

With my fellow unicorn, Andrija

With my fellow unicorn, Andrija

...to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love...
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach...
— David Whyte

Sometimes it can seem like everyone is walking a different road, and we’re lucky just to cross paths, as if we’ve collided at an intersection. Maybe we pause to look at our maps, and decide to pursue the same mission, allying ourselves in motion toward the same destination.

But I think there is a more useful metaphor.

Humanity, as we have come to define it, has always inhabited one planet. We have shared this planet with all who came before us, and all the elements that currently exist upon and within it, both sentient and non-sentient.

Visualize one long path zigzagging across a mountain. However jumbled or convoluted it might appear while we’re on it, from a distance, we can see one winding road. To be human is to be plopped down somewhere along this path. We can’t see where the path began and we can’t see the ending (although religions and science try to describe the origin story and it’s inevitable ending). None of us actually remember when we entered the path, or even remember our first steps upon it. Whether we walk, skip, or run, whether we hold hands with a fellow traveler or hump our baggage alone, whether we sit down in despair, intrepidly press forward or turn back and slide downhill, all of humanity co-exists along this same wild path.

We imagine death is the ending, but whether our bodies remain planted along the path to fertilize the way for others, or our consciousness is transmogrified to another realm, the path continues on without us, just as it existed before we came to walk upon it.

So how do we learn to trust ourselves, or even know where we are?

I don't think there’s an answer to this. There is only the path, and our ability to see a swath of it at any given time. And a simple choice to rest or move forward, at whatever pace we feel compelled to embrace.

For me, momentum is fueled by questions, not answers.

Answers are like rigid foot-holes, keeping us still and safe in a particular moment; but ultimately, answers prevent us from moving forward.

So I let curiosity lead me.

I try to listen to my body and ask myself, what do I feel the need to move towards?  Who will I let walk with me? From whom do I feel I should run?

The barriers that tell us where we end and those around us begin can give us space and freedom to pursue aspects of our journey, apart from approval or the sanctified labels to which we might be tempted to adhere.

If I move along the path with a defensive posture, am I protecting myself, or impeding joy?

Who should I let shake up my heart?

I can imagine more than one reality, but at any given time, I can only be at one place upon this path. In the truest and broadest reality, there is the life I have in this moment and a slew of alternative lives I could be having at any other juncture along this path. But I am where I am.

I don’t know how anyone else should move along their path. I don’t know which God should lead you, what you should call Him (or her), in what clothes or with whom you should worship.

In the life I am currently cultivating, I am unconcerned with conquering anything or anyone. I step away from violence and toward gentleness, with the least resistance possible, open to whatever the path offers. Although my first instinct might be to push against any obstruction that stands in my way, there is no struggle when there is no opposing force.

I don’t know my destination, and I am not in control of this road. I am just a person following a path as I see it, vulnerable to all the risks along the way. I try to remain fluid enough to soften and embrace what approaches, rather than weapon up to fight it.

Because in the end, I think we’re all just trying to figure out how to walk each other home.

Michelle Dowd