There is No Path

“The path is made by walking,” is a common saying. So if you move into new directions and explore undiscovered territories, the story goes, you will have to create the path by yourself.

There is another way to look at the path, though, and it’s helpful to meditate on that one when considering what happened in 2010 and when planning for 2011. It’s a simpler look, it’s very easy to get – but maybe it’s also a little bit more radical: There is no path.

Not only is there no path where no one walked before.
There is no path at all.

Of course, all of us are moving. And maybe you’ll move together with others, and create a new path as you move along. But that’s of second order. When considering that there is no path, it means that you are not obligated to get anywhere. Because you are already alive. And I think this is a useful insight to remember at this time of the year.

There are people who will hate me for writing this. They are young and ambitious (or old, and still not wise), and they don’t want to accept it: You have to plan, they say, you have to review! You have to build your business and your relationships!

They are right in that we all change, if we like it or not, and that we are better off taking control of these changes rather than hopelessly trying to maintain the status quo.

What I am advocating, though, is not resistance to change. I am advocating embracing the simple, yet totally astonishing fact that you are already complete. That you are already alive. That you are already here.

Life is not a race, and once you step back from the minutiae, you are free to enjoy it. You won’t be more complete once you make six figures. You won’t be more complete once you finally marry that beautiful girl, once you finally date that handsome guy, once you lose 20 pounds, once you get that new car, or phone, or house. (Or once you declutter and live with only 100 things.)

All of this can be nice. All of this can have some positive impact on your life. But if you aren’t self-sufficient and happy to be yourself, don’t expect these things to make a difference. If you are looking for illumination, for contentment, for happiness, all you have to understand is that you can have it right here, right now. In this very moment, reading this very sentence, in the very place you happen to be.

instant illumination space

I am no stranger to paths, to planning, to dreaming. I wrote about travel as the human condition some time ago, and of course there’s something to that metaphor. Yet, if you look at time, what is the only piece of it that you’ll ever have?

  • Certainly not the past! The past is history, created by whoever was powerful enough to write it. This is true for both accounts of the major events in world history and for our personal lives. You cannot always control it, but there definitely is some kind of struggle going on inside you, and the winning forces decide if you rather remember the beautiful vacations you took with your parents when you were 10 or the divorce they got when you were 12.
  • Certainly not the future! Make no mistake here, especially during this time of the year: You can make all the plans and resolutions, set up all the meetings and accountability systems that you like – but if you get run over by a car tomorrow, that’s as far as you get!

This leaves you with the present. And when I invite you to just live in this present moment, I am not rallying against using these days to consider what happened, look back at what you did. And it’s good to make plans, to reconnect with your dreams, to create your personal agenda of what’s next.

Just don’t get overwhelmed by it, and don’t let the turn of the year paralyze you and lock you into a world of illusions and analysis. Instead, remember to enjoy these days with your family and friends, or even with total strangers, because that’s what life really is about, as far as I can tell.

Once you detach yourself from the details, from your hopes and plans, from your worries and regrets, there is no path. There’s only this very place and time where you are right now. And you are free to embrace it.


Writing a bit of history myself, 2010 was a great year for The Friendly Anarchist, and I’d like to thank all of you for taking the time to stop by at this site. It was because of you, because of your comments and support, that this blog became what it is, and together we managed to make it bigger and better, without growing too fast and losing touch.

In 2011, I’d like to focus on making TFA even more useful and playful. I want to produce high quality content, and the results from my recent survey will be very helpful for this. Thanks to everybody who took the time to answer it! There were so many beautiful and inspiring remarks, and I really appreciate them. I promised a coffee to everybody taking part in it; please call me out on it whenever we meet! (I mean it!)

Also, there were some people who wrote they never got in touch personally because they were too lazy or too timid. I’d love to exchange thoughts with you, but as the survey was anonymous, I can’t take the first step. If you read this, please feel free to send a mail at any time you feel comfortable.

I am currently planning a trip to Europe for February in order to enjoy the change of the seasons from winter to spring. Before leaving, I will enjoy the heat of Colombia for the next couple of weeks. Currently, I am at a beautiful hotel right at the beach of Cartagena, writing and enjoying the December winds and the sea with my wife, who will probably stay a little longer.

For the New Year, I wish you to find the balance between idleness and action, and the power to change whatever you want to change in your life, moment by moment. Take nothing for granted, and remember that all you have to do is being yourself. As it says in the TFA tagline: It’s your life, and you are free to live it at your own pace, by your own rules! Thank you, again, for being around!

Comments 23

  1. Ryan December 31, 2010

    “The path is made by walking.” Great thought… I’m really glad to have come across your blog this year, Fabian. Hoping we can connect in Colombia before you head to Europe!

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      So you’re not much of a “no path” kind of person, Ryan? :)
      Anyway, I hope you’ll have a great time here in COL and we’ll certainly manage to meet up somewhere! Keep me updated on your route!

  2. supernalsteve December 31, 2010

    Great post Fabian – the moment is all there is – truth, absolutely.

    If you make it to London on your European jaunt be sure to look me up.

    Best wishes for 2011.

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      Thank you Steve, London may actually be part of the trip! All the best for 2011, and we’ll keep in touch!

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  4. Cristhyano December 31, 2010

    Nice writings. Looking forward to another year of TFA. Cheers and happy new year!

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      Thank you, Cristhyano! Have a great New Year in Brazil!

  5. Jonathan Ziemba December 31, 2010

    Push that pedal down and enjoy the ride everyone.
    Do the things we cannot quantify, Happy New Year TFA readers.

    Thanks for being a compass and not a road map Fabian.
    Cheers,

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      Thank you Jonathan, and enjoy the ride, too! We’ll play with both full throttle and brake pedals and travel tempo giusto style! :)

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  7. Joel January 1, 2011

    Happy New Year Fabian! It’s been great getting to know you! All the best in 2011 (I vote for a US stop en route to Europe) =)

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      Joel, have a Happy New Year, too! :)
      As for a US trip, I’m thinking to make that later this year in June… hope it’ll work out!

  8. Kaari January 1, 2011

    Awesome post! I had to stop in the middle and let this one sink in. I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out where I’m going and how to get there, and getting annoyed at how it’s taking me out of enjoying where I am right now. Just what I needed to hear today.

    Back to enjoying today with some of my favorite people. Thanks, Fabian!

    • Fabian January 2, 2011

      Kaari, I’m glad you liked the post. Sometimes, it’s just the best to simply breathe deeply and enjoy the very place where we’re at currently. In this sense, it sounds as if you spent New Year’s Day the perfect way! :)

  9. Nate January 2, 2011

    Fabian –

    Happy New Year!

    I couldn’t agree more! This reminds me of a recent post I did on “What Does Your Cocoon Look Like?”

    I think a lot of people get stuck and most, if not all of our fears and anxieties come from thinking we have to follow some particular path, or that there’s somewhere to get to…or we get caught up in the past. All of this linear way of thinking of things can cause distress in our lives. One of the last things I say in that post is ‘the path is the journey.’ What this really means is that we can find a greater sense of peace and acceptance in our lives if we can get comfortable in actually living our life….not thinking about what we need to do next, or what happened yesterday, but really opening up to our life right here and now.

    On a different topic..

    It’s been great getting to know you further and following you throughout the year. Your site and writings are great and it’s been awesome to see your success and growth here. It definitely makes me happy to see people doing what they love and succeeding at it.

    Peace,
    Nate

  10. Fabian January 2, 2011

    Hey Nate,

    Thank you for your kind words! We’re really on the same page here, and I think the tempo giusto approach to blogging you take on Fearless Endeavors is really the best way to go. Love the image of the cocoon. It manages to show why it’s problematic, but also why we retreat to it, hoping to feel calmer or safer.

    It was a pleasure to connect with you over the year, and I hope we’ll stay in touch. Looking forward to more of your mindful writings, Nate! Happy New Year!

  11. Kane January 4, 2011

    Fabian Hi and happy new year. I agree with your rejection of ‘the path’ as a metaphor. We can see a path as we look back and it’s narrowness can give rise to the false perception that it was pre-ordained.

    I don’t see that as being the case, in fact I don’t think journeying metaphors, with their assumption of perpetual movement between the cradle and grave, are particularly helpful in trying to reach any sort of sense of inner peace or to live just in the moment.

    Yet spending time in the here and now can enable one to let go of the quest for the next thing that will change ones life, which I guess is why marketers are always trying to propel us towards their particular ‘holy grail’ for the day.

    Have a good one. BW Kane

    • Fabian January 4, 2011

      Hey Kane, happy new year for you, too!
      I personally enjoy mixing metaphors up. Each of them can help us gaining insights, if we know what to make out of them. As you write, the path metaphor won’t bring us inner peace and tranquility – but it can be useful when deciding about what to do and where to go next.

      I think that no metaphor (and neither any methodology, ideology, etc.) should be taken as an objective value or “truth”, but rather as a tool. As such, they depend on our own interpretations and the situation we happen to be in. We certainly shouldn’t buy into any narrow and fixed interpretation of them just because some marketer (or writer) manages to package them so nicely.

  12. Jeanie January 8, 2011

    First, I LOVE THAT PICTURE! Second, your message is already tremendously useful.
    Third, I would like to have dinner sometime, somewhere, with you and your wife. :)

    I’m so glad we connected in 2010.

    • Fabian January 9, 2011

      Jeanie, thanks a lot! I’m glad we connected, too! And I’m sure that we’ll find a date and place for dinner! :)

  13. Sarah January 13, 2011

    Just what I needed to hear today! Truly enjoyed being in this moment (present) reading such inspiring words! Thank you!

    PS. If you are ever in NJ/NY, would love to meet you and your wife! You guys are blessed! :)

    • Fabian January 13, 2011

      Thank you so much Sarah! It makes me very happy to read that! :)
      Hopefully we’ll be able to meet some day… the NY/NJ area has been on my travel bucket list for quite some time, and I am thinking about taking a trip to the US later this year, so maybe it’ll work out! :)

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