So often I have set goals for myself - lofty visions of where I wanted to be at a certain time of my life, certain tasks to accomplish, etc. Sometimes, I have achieved these goals. Many other times, I realized on the way that either my goal was unachievable or it was something that I no longer even wanted, and so I had to change the way I was going. And often even when I did achieve a goal, it was only with the recognition that I still had so much further to go, that the mountain I thought I was climbing was only a foothill to the great range that still stretched out before me.
Setting goals can easily become a fruitless activity. When we set goals, we can have a hard time finding satisfaction with the way things are now, because we are always looking for how they can be improved, and we are so focused on the endpoint we are striving to reach that we can forget to enjoy the journey. And we forget, also, that the journey is all we ever have, as there is no true final endpoint. This is not to say that you shouldn't strive to improve or change your life, but rather that you should focus on each present day and on each tiny step, making the choices and fostering the habits, however small, that will lead to the change you desire, rather than focusing on an illusory endpoint that you will never truly reach.
But what does this talk of goals have to do with the question in the title of this post? Well, sometimes when people ask that question or similar ones (where does the path lead? what am I going to get out of this? etc.) they are making a similar assumption to that of setting goals: that there is some endpoint to be reached, and that the "path" is linear, with a clearly defined beginning and end. But this is not the case. I was born into this one particular life, but the molecules and atoms and quarks that make up my body have been travelling the path in different shapes for a countless number of aeons before now, and when I die to this life, I will continue on the path in many different forms for aeons to come. The path is not linear, but spiralling, as we all move from life to life, from shape to shape, from world to world. There is no beginning, no end.
But where does the path lead? If it has no beginning and no end, does it even make sense to talk about it "leading" anywhere at all? I believe that it does. Just as we may be better off focusing our energies on improving our lives today rather than achieving arbitrary goals, so too does living our lives well as best as we can today leads us better on the path than does striving for some impossible endpoint. Perhaps the question should not be "where does the path lead?" but rather "where can we lead the path?" We can choose to live well, to respect our bodies, to treat other human and non-human beings honourably, to cultivate our creativity, to act against the injustice and suffering in the world rather than for it, or we can choose other things. Our define that we make today define our path and where it will lead. We are not tied to our past choices or actions, but we always have the power, today, of choosing to take another direction, of choosing to act for change. The path leads where we lead it.
(Part of 30 Days of Druidry)