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June 5th, 2020

The Path With Heart In A Time Of Darkness

There are moments lately I feel like a prisoner in my own house; not the one I’m paying a fixed mortgage on, but the house within, the one with the endless mortgage. It’s been quite a year so far, if I start counting from the month of my heart attack. The doctor who wheeled me into the operating room for my angioplasty said I seemed very calm for someone who’d just been told he was having a heart attack. I said that now at least I knew what was happening. The thing of it is, knowledge doesn’t always make you feel better, but at least it brings an inward steadiness. Now you have a reference point. An island of calm in a landscape of uncertainty.

I apologize to friends who may be thinking that I’m withdrawing lately. I’m probably still in a state of shock. Finding out what happened to a friend from my teen years has knocked me for a loop in a way even mom’s death did not. In the normal course of life you expect to outlive your parents, deep dark grief though it is when it comes. To loose track of a friend, carefree, smart, good hearted, beautiful, for decades, only to find them lost to mental illness, and homelessness shakes the few certainties you managed to hold on to in your old age. Something taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Everything is pointless.”

Yes it is. But no it isn’t. Don Juan said, “All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.” The subtle truth you learn is that while the path with heart can be a joyful journey, joy does not erase the darkness any more than knowledge does. But at least there is calm.

I have managed to be one with all the paths I’ve followed since I was a teenage boy. I am still. I have my art. I have my tools. I am one with my path. But paths don’t always make it plain where they go. You hope for the best, you walk forward expectantly, always with your eyes wide open. But it’s the path you follow because that is the path with heart. You try to keep in mind that it goes nowhere. Even so, you are somewhere. Eric Sevareid said Hillary climbed the mountain not because it was there, but because he was.

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