Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seeker's Journey: The Fourth Map

                                                                                                                                                                        
As they sat and rested, Seeker said to the Smiling Man, "I understand that you are quite content to journey with no destination in mind, but I want to choose a destination for myself."

The Smiling Man asked, "Well, did you have something specific in mind?"

"Actually, I think the destination that matters most to me is True Happiness."

The Smiling Man laughed heartily.  "My friend, I frequent that locale daily."

"But you simply wander where your Arrow Map points and make the most of whatever you find there."

"Fair enough," the Smiling Man nodded.  "But it seems that True Happiness is a destination one may easily reach if one is willing to do so.  Does it seem strange to be in two places at once?  It is more common than you may think."

Seeker pondered this and eventually replied, "Yes, I believe I see your point.  True Happiness is not a destination I need to seek.  If I am honest with myself, I know how to get there when I want to.  But still, I believe I would like to determine a focal point for my journey, even if I spend time in True Happiness as well."

The Smiling Man once more asked, "Did you have something specific in mind?"

As Seeker looked around at the mountains and their splendor, he realized that what mattered most to him was having a direction, a purpose that he valued.  He didn't necessarily want to determine a destination where he would live out the rest of his days, but he wanted someplace to serve as a target.  Once he arrived, he could decide on a new destination if he desired.  It perhaps wasn't all that different from the way the Smiling Man journeyed, except that it held a bit more intentionality.  Seeker knew for perhaps the first time how important that intentionality was to him.

His eyes settled on a distant ridge.  Its contour was striking, and its rock formations seemed fascinating at least from this distance.  Seeker imagined that the view from that ridge would really be something worth seeing, and he was confident that he could also arrive in True Happiness as often and for as long as he wished.  So he indicated the ridge and said with some determination, "There.  That's the destination I have in mind."

The Smiling Man said, "Hmmm, that seems like a bit of a trek, but probably well worth it.  I don't believe I'll be pointing myself in that direction, but you can most likely find your way there on your own."  And then his eyes lit up as inspiration struck, "What you need is a map!"

With a bit of resigned amusement, Seeker stated, "I have maps enough as it is."  Once more, he withdrew his Map of Known Routes, the Map of Destinations, and the Arrow Map.  He looked at the ridge at back at the maps in a half-hearted attempt to find a recognizable connection.

"Oh, no, no, no," quipped the Smiling Man.  "That's far too much information.  You would never choose some of those routes and you have no interest in most of those destinations.  You need a map that is more useful and a bit less exhaustive."

"But exhaustive is useful," argued Seeker.  "Until recently, I often checked my Map of Known Routes to insure that I hadn't strayed onto a dangerous or slippery path.  And as recently as today I consulted the Map of Destinations to eliminate all of the places I don't care to go in order to clarify the choices a bit.  Surely you don't suggest I reach that distant ridge by using only the Arrow Map."

"That may actually work.  But I was thinking more of having a map that indicated what you actually want in way of routes and destinations, instead of confusing the matter by looking at every possibility every time you want to go somewhere.  If your map shows you where you want to go and how you want to get there, isn't that enough?"

"What if I'm wrong?  What if I wind up on the wrong path, one that doesn't actually lead where I want to go?  What if a path doesn't go where I expect it to?"

"Then you make adjustments as necessary.  It's not actually all that difficult."

Seeker was still a bit skeptical.  "Why should I trust cartographic advice from a man who exclusively follows an arrow that points him in whichever direction he wishes to go in any given moment?  I mean, it is a fine way to appreciate the journey, but I seriously doubt your method is a reliable way to travel with purpose."

The man's smile didn't fade as he turned his Arrow Map over and showed Seeker the other side.  It was a simple affair, but it had some important destinations and reliable routes to them.  "I know how to get to the places that really matter to me when I want to."

Suddenly, Seeker found his opinion of this traveling companion sharply adjusted.  He spent the next few hours learning from the Smiling Man how to create a map with only valuable information on the back of his own Arrow Map.  The Smiling Man wouldn't tell him if it was accurate, and he didn't express any approval or disapproval of what Seeker thought was valuable information.  When it seemed complete enough for Seeker to resume his journey, the Smiling Man slowly nodded with satisfaction.

"I wish you the most enjoyable travels, Seeker.  You will encounter others along the way who can help you correct and clarify your map as you go, but don't blindly trust anyone who tells you that you've got something wrong.  Test it and see for yourself, and you'll always know you're on the right track."

Seeker thanked the Smiling Man, and he folded his old maps and kept them tucked away, just in case.  He felt very happy with his new map, however, and he set off for the distant ridge with a spring in his step.

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