Saturday, January 14, 2012

Climbing To Nowhere

This is the henro trail.

No, wait. Maybe this the henro trail?

Two very typical pictures from the henro trail. Two that probably appear in the photo album of everyone who has ever walked it with a camera. The problem, i'm afraid, is that for some, the first is the "good" picture, the real henro trail, and the second is the "bad" picture, what you are forced to endure between experiences of the first.

Yes, i admit that in the past i have criticized and complained about the amount of time spent walking on the side of the road, but over the years my understanding of the "trail" has changed.

Walking the trail is a never ending series of ups and downs, climbs and descents, and it is only human nature to prefer the peaks to the valleys. From the peaks, the panorama can take your breath away, with all of existence laid out right there before your eyes. On the peaks, exhilaration makes you tingle as you revel in feelings of accomplishment, knowing what you overcame to make the climb. On the peaks, you might find those reclusive masters who have already found what a piece of you is looking for.

The first picture is a wonderful depiction of this aspect of our walk. It is a very rare person who makes the climb by him/herself. Other people before you were also beckoned by that peak, and have built stairs to help you with your climb; stairs that not only make the climb a little less difficult, but also assure you that step-by-step you remain on the correct path.

The best benefactors don't build elevators and escalators — no, that would make the climb too easy; no lessons could be learned, and no lesson is ever learned unless it comes through your own personal experience of it. The stairs that they offer are rustic; rough hewn, sometimes shaky and unsteady, sometimes even with obstacles still growing across your path, but they will be solid and navigable. And both sides of the stairs will be beautifully landscaped, reminding you of the beauty of the world around you as you stop from time to time to let your body catch up to your dreams.

As you climb higher, further and further above the life you are used to, even handrails might be offered. Those that have walked before you have done all that they can to encourage you to make the climb, because they know that the experience at the peak could change your life.

But, most of us don't visit the peaks, we can't. Most of us live in the second picture. We have mortgages, car payments, and other bills to pay, families to feed, kids to rear and educate, and to pay for all of that, jobs that we must go to day after day.

We still see the peaks and dream of visiting them, but all too often we are limited to walking in the valleys, amidst the noise and bustle, cars and traffic, our neighbors houses, and the businesses that line the road. Walk we do, though, because just sitting still and settling into mediocrity would be too hard to bear.

Then, if we are lucky, it dawns on us during one of our walks that there is no difference between the two henro trails. Both have expansive views, they just look different. Both offer that tingling feeling of exhilaration that comes after the struggle to success, just in different arenas. And there are masters living even in the hovels of rundown urban areas, you just need to see them.

So, while the first picture is certainly beautiful and certainly depicts a wonderful experience, one well worth undertaking, don't forget that the second picture is also the henro trail, one where countless lessons can be learned. The only requirement is that we continue to glance up at those peaks every now and then, remembering that in truth the climb to them leads to nothing and nowhere, and vowing to never let that allure fade.

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