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Life Notes

How Did I Miss That?

Part 29: The Road to Nowhere…

 I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. Isaiah 42:16

Several decades ago, a friend and mentor introduced me to Eastern philosophy. Much of it seemed nonsensical at first. It was full of circular, impossible-to-fathom sayings that were intriguing, but seemed not to lead anywhere, at least not that I could see. Being a child of the West, I learned to discern fact from fiction, right from wrong, north from south. There were important distinctions to recognize and lines to be drawn between this and that. The great Eastern teachers’ lessons were mostly vague and noncommittal. What drew me to their words, however, was the way they grabbed something inside of me and held on until I engaged, like a wrestling match with one’s shadow. A paraphrase of one of my favorite sayings (from an unremembered author) is: “If you cannot find happiness where you are standing, where do you expect to wander in search of it?” In retrospect, that sounds exactly like the sort of thing Jesus would say. Of course, Jesus was from the Middle East.

Many of us feel we simply must change our physical location, our job, or our significant other in order to find happiness or personal fulfillment. Sometimes, as in cases of professional opportunities or abusive relationships, that may be true. If we have always dreamed of living near an ocean or in the mountains, staying in Kansas may not be a good choice. The point, however, is that happiness, fulfillment, and contentment are primarily internal states that have little to do with our external environment. Often, when we feel we simply must go somewhere else, we are only running from something inside ourselves that will follow us and manifest again, no matter how far away we run. At some point, we are better off to stay put, honestly and openly reflect on our life, and take the road to nowhere.

The road within may not be an actual road; but it is a journey – a journey of self-discovery. Eastern philosophy helped me understand the importance of looking within for the source of love, strife, strength, and life in ways that my Western upbringing seemed to disavow. Virtual roads to happiness extend in every direction from where we stand at any given moment. These roads are internal, and we find them as we face our own demons and learn to be content with what we have, even as we strive for more. Happiness and contentment are not out there, somewhere; they are always in here. Our creator planted them where they lurk closer than our next breath. It may seem bad news that we cannot run from ourselves. The good news is that we take the road to happiness with us wherever we go.

The road to nowhere is the road to everywhere. How did I miss that?

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