"Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin’ for something that I can believe in
Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life. "
(Sweet Surrender, John Denver 1974)
The best path through life is to travel by highway. Whether you speed or you go slowly, it is the most direct way to get where you are going. If you follow it, you will find your way home. It may often seem long and winding, full of twists and turns, with no direction ever going your way; underlying, it is constant. We spend our entire lives trying to understand why things go the way they go, looking at the roadside while we pass it by. We search for meaning and those examples which may instruct us regarding a better way to travel. In the end, we do not pay them heed; they are tossed aside as if there was no road at all. All we concentrate on is the finish line, so we don't see how we are to get where we are supposed to be going. We forget our life lessons come from our journey, not the destination that we invest so much time trying to convince ourselves is real. The highway is always shorter than we imagine it to be.
It is productive to have goals, to have an end to strive towards. Human beings tend to use this as an excuse to ignore the pain, the horror life can bring while we journey. Sometimes living can make dying look easy. Most people do not realize that should we find the end of it, then it would be the end of us. Your death should not define you, the way you lived should. This is what will matter in the end. It is the path you have walked upon that will determine how you got where you are. On the highway of life, our view of the past is limited to the rear view mirror. You look, but it's already too late. There is no "my way or the highway." Too often, we are so preoccupied with were we are heading that we forget to enjoy the ride. We don't recognize that a journey we take to nowhere starts with a single step, just the same. Lest we forget, that which does not kill you makes you stronger, but that which kills you, most certainly, makes you dead.
Like warning lines on the path ahead, lessons dictate what we should not do. They do not, however, stop us from doing them. It is inevitable; we cannot do without these mistakes. They are the highway of our character. Without them we take blind turns, not able to see what's coming and with no way to prepare. What we take from our journey provides us with the qualities needed to endure the journey, to face oncoming traffic and increase our locomotion. Life is really just one big roadtrip. The way we travel becomes our life. It is our life. The journey, it will define us.
Unless we stay in constant motion, we become stagnant, quite lost. We start to believe there is nowhere to go. We don’t take the time to see the bigger picture because where we are is all we are capable of understanding. In our hubris, we assume our travels are the only direction that should be followed. People waste their entire life on this dead end. They become hijacked, taken away because they disregarded caution. They cannot see that everyone is travelling down the very same path. We are shaped by culture, perspective and experience so the road appears different for everyone, but it is all one and the same. Thinking your way is the only way simply means you have forgotten the highway that we all travel on.
We all journey this road by different modes of transportation, taking what we think is the most certain way to get where we are going. These fashions are an artificial representation of the world from a privileged view. The world can be stark and real, almost hostile, but regardless of the complexities faced, it will be this trip along the way that holds the greatest sentiment. After all, the unexamined life is not worth living. This is the forgotten highway to which I refer. We are not able to produce a greater, clearer understanding of our true purpose in life unless we take the time to analyze and contemplate our life. The purpose of all this is to learn, to recognize the lessons that our journey has brought us, in order to produce spiritual and personal growth. Unless one becomes mindful of this condition, we may be doomed to unconscious repetition. If you don't know where you have been, you are destined to walk that way again.
More time to sit and watch the pendulum sway.
In quiet rage I'm staring at this empty notebook page.
In times like these you feel like you are done with feeling,
You feel you want to stop the pain from healing
Because you feel like you're the only one,
Who's ever felt this way."
(End of May, Michael Bublé 2010)
We are the sum of our experiences. It goes without saying, unless we pay attention to the wisdom we picked up from the road, we walk right off the highway and end up in the ditch. Our experiences don't just shape us, they create us and they lead us. Only you, however, can define yourself. What you listen to determines who you will be. Only you can ascertain the essential qualities within yourself, taking what you must from each experience and discarding the rest. You are what you let yourself be. Choosing to let your experiences affect you is your option, but how you see yourself is the result. Our actions influence us, they form us. What you take from each experience ensures the most fundamental qualities of your being. When examining yourself, don't take the low and easy road and make sure that you are being thorough.
Life isn't just about the journey, it is the journey. Experience can strand the traveller if focus is only on the lesson and not its application. I for one cannot imagine anything worse than dying knowing I had never lived. Carry on no matter what you see ahead of you. Fight the future with all your might. Don't expect life to do your work for you. Things do not change; we change. If things get too much, lighten your load and keep on going. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The highway ahead of us is uncertain at best. All we can do is lessen our expectations of what tomorrow will bring and concentrate on making now, today, what we want it to be. Don't just consider the things you wish you had done, or could do; do them while you still can. We must consciously, adamantly seize the day.
There is a rhythm to living, an euphony that flows through all things. Life is an ebb and flow, consequence and mistake; life is change. It is in constant flux, all action and reaction, trial and error to the very end. Change is the very tarmac of the road you stand upon. Like a dune on the cape, it shifts, recreated by the syncopation of what has been. At any second, it may be blown away. The winds of change usually bring fear. It may be fear of losing, it may be fear of gaining, but it is fear nonetheless. It is because things are the way that they are that things never stay the way that they are. Dread and trepidation lose their power over us when we realize that for everything we miss out on in life, we gain something different. Just as with everything we end up gaining, we lose something also. It's a catch-22, a metaphor for trading. Unless we transform, we too may be gone with the wind. All you have to do is choose which road you take.
'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'
(The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost 1915)
Sometimes, you just have to get in your car and drive. If you try to get away, attempting to escape your past, you may end up sacrificing any joy that might come in the future. We do not realize the only way to view the present is by allowing it to become the past, not that you have a choice. There is no escape. Without this transfer, we would have no vantage point by which to measure what will be. We must move on into it and travel many moonless nights and days filled with grey. When moving forward in our thinking, trying to leave what is done behind us, we also forfeit the good things that we've known, the right choices we have made. These are as much a part of who we are as any damage we may have incurred along the way. Where you have been can get you to where you are going. Unfortunately, we speed so fast over hill and dale that we miss all the scenery. Life is not this type of joyride.
Life sometimes hurts to remember. The memory association you have with the pain can almost kill you with its fury, especially when it centers on someone who has died. It seems easier to just let it all fade away. We think it will make us stronger. We believe the love must die, that this is the only way we will survive the storms of loss and suffering. Love only dies if you let it. It's simpler for some to let go of the dead, and forget, than it is to carry on with them and remember. It takes a stronger person to keep the memory of someone who has died alive within, continuing the same relationship with them though once removed. Whether we like it or not, the dead are as much a part of the highway that we travel on as anything else we have known.
Sometimes we are required to speak for them by proxy. Often, we are forced to do so. We do not even wait for people to die anymore, treating the aged like they are standing in line at the cemetery, fast worm food. Simply approaching death in a youth-oriented society means invisibility. We choose not see them because they act as a mirror to our own mortality. Had it not been for their walkabout, we would not have gotten to where we are as a civilization. When you cast something aside, you waste opportunities to learn and the wisdom those lessons contain. Wisdom doesn't just appear, it always requires an outside source. When we outsource, we are cultivated, in a sense. Growth is a journey of patience and polish while lack of proper attention will wither away such a promising life. You have to measure and discern what shapes you. Without a firm foundation, you cannot grow strong. You need food for your soul.
Like a little fish, we swim around a great big sea looking for the ocean. We do not find what we look for because we refuse to recognize those things that we do not know. If we knew it to begin with, we would not be looking for it. We drive so fast we miss all the road signs, not watching the way up ahead. As we stare out our rear view mirror, suddenly we hit a bad patch and go off the road, slamming into a tree.
It would be wise to pay attention.
"We may shine, we may shatter,
We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
We are fragile, we are human,
We are shaped by the light we let through us,
We break fast, cause we are glass."
(Glass, Thompson Square 2012)
I think it is admirable to recognize your limitations. If you cannot eat 17 eggrolls, don't order them off the menu. You will get what you pay for. As with mercy, the quality of your weaknesses is not strained. It is easier to stay in the security of your own restrictions than to change and try to make yourself better. We would rather speed off down the road than have to walk it. We would rather drive past someone who needs assistance than pull over and offer them a hand. We need to recognize the needs of everyone rather than only ourselves. We must learn to feel their pain, to look past their faults or circumstance. We must show them the same mercy we expect for ourselves. Instead of "mercy, mercy me," it should be "mercy, mercy we." This is an incarnation of the divine, intangible proof that there is something, somewhere watching over us. There is no such thing as justice on the highway, and mercy often inflicts death. You have to remember that while there may be no reprieve, there is always this state of clemency.Despite this state of mercy, we spend our entire lives denying, running away from our own end. It is not mercy if we fear it. Personally, I would rather deal with the entire death issue now than have to have it in my face later, when I can least afford the reflection. Just looking can shatter the glass. I suppose no matter how we try to avoid it, it is a human thing, a normal function, for us to fear death. Peace will only find you when you decide whether you want to live life knowing you are dying, or die not having lived. Still, it is often confusing for me that although 95% of people believe the highway doesn't end yet, we are still so afraid of what lies in waiting. We are afraid because we just cannot be sure. After all, mankind tends to use control mechanisms, like hell, to trick the ignorant into towing the line. The truth is we just don't know anything concrete about the place of the damned, no more than we do about the place called heaven. Even though we spend most of our lives in forced descent, we should have figured out from the scenery that there is no highway to hell.
Life is suffering. Like an ode to misery, you usually get what you have prepared for yourself. There is an alternative to all this agony, a way to end our suffering. Our own thinking and actions authorize our misery. Since we are shaped by our thoughts, we tend to become what we think. Joy will follow us like a shadow that will not leave, but only when our mind is pure. If we suffer, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We give permission to pain and distress. We have to master our thinking, and our weaknesses, and in so doing, we can control our fear and the power we give to the more negative aspects of life. One measure at a time, we become free. Thinking we can means that we can. This does nothing to stop the actual experience. How you react to that experience is your choice and determines your level of wretchedness.
In the still of the night, on this highway often forgotten by others, I catch a glimpse inside my mind and I make believe it might be the dead calling out to me from the place they are now. You can miss someone so deeply that it changes you. Tragically, human beings would rather forget than hurt. They let go, thinking it will save them. Nothing can save us. It is entirely in God's hands who will live and who will die. When someone cries out a fierce goodbye, they are not responsible for their actions. I have to believe there are circumstances only God can know and that He will not overlook such things. People, however, seem to lack any kind of compassion at all for others, in particular those who lose their way and end up so lost. Forgiveness should always be the rule and not the exception. It is so easy for us to judge each other because we forget we must love each other above everything.
This same rule should apply to everything in nature. Of course, we take the world around us for granted when the same right to respect, consideration and safety is merited to all, not just human beings. In our self-absorption, we leave our responsibilities behind us, ignorantly believing, or not caring, that the natural world is intact. How we treat the planet is just as important as how we treat each other. We are callously destroying the path we walk upon. Soon, there will be no highway and we don’t seem to care. We cut off our toes despite our feet. While it seems we have forgotten how harsh the road we have travelled is, it would be harsher still if there was no road at all.
"Here we stand in the middle
Of what we've come to know
It's a dance, it's a balance
Holding on and letting go
But there is nothing that we can't resolve
When love's at stake
When love's involved
Every road that's traveled
Teaches something new
Every road that's narrow
Pushes us to choose"
(Every Road, Amy Grant 1997)
We must make the decision to be aware of the way we have travelled or we will not know where we are. If this life is a highway, ignoring all the bumps in the road as we pass over them can lead to much collateral damage. It matters little whether you realize this or not. Paying attention can direct you to which path is safe for journey.
The road not taken may be the better way.
We must examine our journey or we will surely lose our way. Like an endless, vicious cycle we will keep making the same stupid mistakes, over and over, not realizing all we have to do is look in the rear view mirror. We forget our life lessons, the road signs we pass, so we drive right into a construction site. The road block ahead can be avoided simply by shifting in a new direction. You can live by the highway or die by the highway. Either way, you get to drive.
"Shut up and drive
Don't look in the mirror
Turn the radio on
Get out of here."
(Shut up and Drive, Chely Wright 1997)