“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.
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!