“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess we all have heard about the dichotomy of journey vs destination.
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson (American best-selling Author and founder of the American Wellness Project., b.1964)
I still had the impression that each cross-road had a right and a wrong choice for me. If I chose wrong I would be letting the side down. If I chose right, great!
So it came as a shock to me that the journey can be a series of twisting paths and whichever choices are made, the “side” won’t be let down. Firstly I watched an episode of “Parkinson” in which he interviewed a famous author whose early years consisted of what appeared to be some significantly bad choices. Eventually this future author found himself destitute, on drugs and alcohol, living under the platform of a New York subway station. At this point, Parkie asked the author how he would live his life again if he had a rerun. The answer was “I wouldn’t change a thing. I would not be whom I am now if I had not gone through this” (Apologies if I am misquoting this here, the principle is correct, the quote is not!)
Now this week I came across another example of a related issue. In the chapter on “Fate and Choice” from “Endless Light” by David Aaron, he gives an example of ‘Jim’ whose cosmic duty (the “side”) is to demonstrate familial love. However Jim makes incremental choices which end up with his wife leaving him, his kids on drugs, and generally would appear to have failed in his duty, and let the side down.
So it came as a shock to hear David Aaron write “He succeeded, by being such a horrible example of husband and father”. Wow! I had never thought that by taking a path that sets a bad example a person could still be moving towards the same conclusion! But it makes sense to me now. If we are all part of a cosmic plan, if GodIsLove created this world for us to learn to make loving choices, then those who make unloving choices will show the world what the effect of those choices are. So while it is our choice to align ourselves with loving intent or not, David Aaron says that while we choose awareness we have the joy of walking in light, otherwise we stumble in the dark. Either way, the cosmic plan is fulfilled.
I feel that this understanding removes the threat of guilt from the path ahead. Choose with love as the intent, and if things appear to go awry, relax, you are still an important element of this universe. So many times guilt and shame cause us to dwell on the paths taken, rather than the spirit of the decision. In the story of Jim above, he chose to work away from home with best intentions of raising money for his family. Who can say each decision was wrong, no one should judge. And the result? The result could be like the famous author interviewed by Parkinson. That life experience could shape the participants for better or worse. That is their life choices to make.
Which leads onto the issue of judgement. Which one of us likes it? How does it help? Jesus said “Judge not, and you will not be judged” and I wonder if he had his tongue in his mouth when he said this. Who is capable of no judgement in their lifetime? It is an interesting question. Usually our shadow side (Subconscious awareness) takes us into the realm of judging those behaviours we most dislike in ourselves. So it is quite possible that when we judge, we are in fact judging ourselves, not the “other”.
Take a simple example. “Terrorists are wrong”. Sounds justifiable? But does it not reflect our fear of what they may do to us? And what is that fear other than the motivation behind all terrorism? In other words, the 9/11 reaction to bomb Iraq reflected the inherent fear of injustice, and resulted in behaviour entirely consistent with what the terrorists did.
So whichever path you take, one element of “choosing with love as the intent” is to consider what you would do in the shoes of the person you are about to judge. The path you take may mirror what you hate or fear, or like Ghandi or Mandela it may break the cycle of injustice and hate.
Really useful questions
“What will I learn from this experience?”
“What did I learn from this experience?”
“What did I learn from judging, and how do I apply that to myself?”
“How can I make an independent choice that reflects love for all I encounter on my path?”