Roads – Jon Cook

He had always liked the Robert Frost poem, the one about the road less travelled. Living a life others didn’t have the courage to live. People always thought about how the poem reflected on life’s choices. How though we may have the best intentions once a decision is made we can never turn back and be the same person. Often people lamented and regretted choices made. For him, the way was freedom. The road was freedom to keep moving.

He often thought about whether he was running from or to something. Or was he running at all? Was he seeking some undefinable answer to an unasked question? Maybe he simply liked the change of scenery. Stagnation had always been his enemy, idleness was wasted time. Being somewhere new meant effortless immersions and growth. New experiences forced their way into his mind begging to be explored. He couldn’t help but learn and change. And so once again he felt the allure to move, to be on the road.

Family and friends had wanted him to stay. To be mired in the day to day with them. He couldn’t of course, not if he wanted to be himself. That was part of the freedom for him, he was always him, but free to re-invent, free to change without judgement or criticism. When no one knew you they couldn’t judge you by your previous self. Laozi said “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” What happens when others won’t let you ‘let go’? People feel safe with familiarity they don’t want change, so they don’t want you to change. Laozi knew this; he wandered across China, changing himself along the way. He was always changing and the road gave him the means of doing so.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” another of Laozi’s. Great things begin with a simple act. He packed a bag, tied his shoes. He is sad, elated, and terrified. The unknown calls, he can hear it in his heart. It quickens his breath and races his mind. He knows he can never return, not that the place won’t be here. Places change slowly and last long, but he can’t return because the ‘he’ will be different. Home doesn’t exist. It is an illusion, a convenient lie we believe to make us feel anchored and safe. A lie his family is happy to propagate, trying to convince to stay or return. This is what is sad for him; he sees the lie, but wants it back. Part of him longs to be home, longs to be back in the safe shelter of the familiar. Lies exposed can’t be undone. When you see the truth you can’t turn around anymore, you’ve gone too far. You are different and no amount of emotion will change that. And so the truth is he is sheltered but homeless. That is why he must be comfortable alone. The road is lonely. The truth is lonelier.

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