“To have his path made clear for him is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence” (Joseph Conrad).
A PATH IS A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY. It indicates that the terrain in which we find ourselves has been explored by someone else. If we follow the path, we will arrive at a place that others have been going to, although we may not know where it is or why others wanted to go there. Consequently, when we find a path in an otherwise trackless wilderness, we feel both safety and mystery. It’s comforting to know that the path may lead us out of the woods, but on the other hand, the end of the path may not be a very comfortable place.
Pathways are promising. Our lives may be compared to a journey through territory that is sometimes difficult, and even dangerous; on such a journey, it is a comfort to have a path to follow. As Joseph Conrad said, “To have his path made clear for him is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence.” There are few things more frustrating or frightening than wanting to get to a certain destination in life but having no idea how to get there. A pathway may not end up where we thought it would, but at least it gives us some direction. “There’s some end at last for the man who follows a path: mere rambling is interminable” (Seneca).
Pathways call for caution. Although pathways can be helpful, sometimes it takes a wise person to know when to follow a path and when to strike out on one’s own. There is a certain safety in following the footsteps of others, but safety shouldn’t always be our main objective. Many of the major contributions to this world have been made by people who weren’t afraid to leave the beaten path and blaze a trail of their own. As André Gide said, “The most beaten paths are certainly the surest, but do not hope to scare up much game on them.”
Yet having a path to follow is often important, and we need to appreciate the value of pathways. But if having a path is important, it’s even more important to create a path that others can follow. Life in this world is not about being served but about serving, and there are few forms of service more profitable than pathfinding. To get through a difficulty and leave a helpful path is a very thoughtful thing to do.
“Pathfinder. A person who goes ahead and discovers or shows others a way” (Oxford English Dictionary).