By Luke Miller
Who doesn’t like a smooth path?
It’s easier to enjoy the surroundings when there’s even terrain beneath your feet and a clear destination in front of you. No need to keep looking down for stumps and ruts that might cause you to fall. And no patches of poison ivy to worry about either.
But alas, there are few truly smooth paths in nature (I’m thinking the Bonneville Salt Flats might be an exception) -- or in life.
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same,” writes novelist and poet Don Williams, Jr. “Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
I’d like to share some of the lessons learned by those who have walked the path before us.
Follow Nature’s Lead. Ralph Waldo Emerson urged us to “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” He was right. Everything will happen in its own time. A small sugar maple may wait decades in the dim light of the forest for a break in the canopy. Nature is sure to provide that break, too. Storms, insects, disease, and old age mean the forest is ever changing. Eventually, a taller tree will fall, the light will appear, and the maple will fulfill its mandate to reach for the heavens.
Keep Your Focus. Along with the patience of a sugar maple, we might do well to adopt the slower pace of a tortoise. “Slow down and enjoy life,” advised Eddie Cantor, a popular singer and comedian of the 1930s. “It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast -- you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” Frankly, it’s been a go-go world since the dawn of the motor age -- and advancing technology is revving our engines at a higher and higher RPM. It’s important to take a pit stop once in awhile to assess where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Pick a Path. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every day we make choices that take us down one path or the other. Some people follow the same path their entire lives. Others take a detour -- sometimes for a day, sometimes for a lot longer. That’s why the pit stops are so important: to make sure we’re still (or finally) on the right path.
Seek Love and Reverence. And what is the right path? That’s for each of us to decide on our own. But I like Henry David Thoreau’s litmus test: “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” It’s darn near impossible to go down the wrong path when you’re walking with those two companions.
Make it a Happy Trail. While love and reverence will put you on the right track, they won’t guarantee a smooth trip. That’s where attitude comes in. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were a popular husband-and-wife team on radio, TV, and in the movies. Their message of integrity and honor was always served up with a healthy dose of cowboy optimism. It’s probably best summed up by a verse in Happy Trails, the song they always sang at the end of their show.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts.
Here’s a happy one for you.
The world’s greatest philosophers couldn’t have put it any better.
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