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Friday, July 23, 2010

Taking a Path

 The Path That Leads Nowhere

All the ways that lead to Somewhere
        Echo with the hurrying feet
    Of the Struggling and the Striving,
        But the way I find so sweet
    Bids me dream and bids me linger,
        Joy and Beauty are its goal,—
    On the path that leads to Nowhere
        I have sometimes found my soul! 

Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, sister of Theodore Roosevelt

Goal-minded, good-meaning people, after careful consideration and considerable investigation, often set themselves onto a safe, definite path that leads to a predetermined destination. These people have invested considerable time and effort into the itinerary of their journey. They have accessed their abilities and talents; then, they have cast off into a journey on the well-traveled water made by many before them. They encounter obstacles along the way; however, these people know that "to stray from the path" could present even deadlier dangers.

On the other hand, the explorers, despite thorough preparation, eventually reach a point in their travels that presents them with the unknown, a place where only new thought and new imagination will serve them as useful tools. These adventurers are in their natural element when they leave the path to carve new maps of understanding. As Corinne Roosevelt relates, "But the way I find so sweet/ Bids me dream and bids me linger/ Joy and Beauty are its goal." In its novel design, Roosevelt's "path that leads to Nowhere" seems especially rewarding to her speaker's very soul.

Many people consider all obscurity to be dark and evil, full of cunning forces bent on destroying any intruders. How many times have mentors and love ones advised curious children never "to leave the path." Of course, this advice, given wisely, pertains to the illumination of goodness in well-trodden steps of tried and true obedience. But, if the explorer were forever to heed this warning, nothing new would surface. And, most people, as part of their nature, do disobey certain temptations as their curiosity overrides their internal compass.  
The remarkable thing about "paths that lead to somewhere" is that most people are willing to follow them, even when they suspect the path violates their basic, chosen principles. The majority feel great security in following the leader and the well-known method even if the course leads them straight over a cliff. Today, conviction is often derived from polling friends and acquaintances, not from striking new chords in the face of the masses. The initiative to open new roads of discovery is often reduced to griping, complaining, and sidelining. 

Also, people are sensitive to a herd mentality as their social skills erode. Confidence in working with strangers has given way to fear of failure. Unfortunately, the world gives no guarantees to the individual stepping waist-deep into problems and into new territories that require group efforts. No computer memory, virtual reality simulation, or twitter of approval is going to produce the human interaction needed to solve complex problems in society.

The only way to be "on the path that leads to Nowhere" is to be physically a part of the team of discovery. The impact of the work of such a group can never be realized until a new and better trail has been blazed and then retrodden by many others. Better ways to accomplish any mission loom on the horizon, just out of touch. The discovery requires humans to break the envelope and pave the way. Until a significant number follow, the path will remain small and will risk deterioration due to lack of use.

As the path to Nowhere inspires the soul, it also provides numerous excuses for individuals to shirk pragmatic theory and involvement. How can new and workable tools arise when people risk nothing other than a simple opinion? Working together improves the self confidence of individuals within the group framework. Working together increases production as it provides visible results. And, perhaps, most importantly, working together diminishes feelings of hopelessness and fear.

People who never take the path to Nowhere --

1. Say, "I'd like to but..."
2. Promise ventures but never get on-board.
3. Gripe, gripe, gripe but never lend a hand to a solution.
4. Blame others for their lack of active participation.
5. Refuse to joust with windmills for fear of failure.
6. Agree with causes but believe that opinion represents the extent of involvement.
7. Never risk anything other than what they already know is expendable. 
8. Lack vision and creativity to dream.
9. See change as impossible.
10. Lose an opportunity to find an undiscovered part of their souls.
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