I had been on my journey for years, and I felt no closer to the end of it than when I had begun. I worried that I might not even be on the right path. And I wondered whether I would even recognize my destination if I did manage to arrive. I met other seekers along the way who I traveled with for a time. Some of them seemed certain of their path; some seemed to have no direction at all.
And I have often lost the trail. I have not paid attention, and I have often lost sight of my intention. So I began again. And again. Enduring the hot sun and the cold rain. Stumbling along in the faith that “I” was out there, hoping to be found. There were times when I would have given up and returned to my sleep. But always something would say to me that there must be more. And if only I could keep moving and searching, someday I would find it. There were times when I enjoyed the search. I learned what is not true more than what is.
I have been assailed by demons when I was waking and when I was sleeping. After much terror, I discovered that the demons would desist if I but ignored them. And I wondered what was beyond the demons? Were they guardians of my prize that appeared when I got too close to it? They were too fearsome to fight, so I ignored them and walked on.
There were times when I came upon beings who needed help. I was often too tired, too dispirited to be of help to man or beast. Though I found that if I did interrupt my journey to help a suffering one, I experienced a strange peace. And for a while my journey felt less imperative. I could never decide if events such as these were related. I walked on, watching for a sign.
Over the years I have grown old. I begin to doubt whether I have time enough left to complete the journey to myself. I walk on, but slowly now. After these many years, the journey has become my home. And I have become the journey.
I walked into a dusty village one day. It was much like the many other little settlements I had passed through over the years. Places where people live together in community; some contentedly, some wishing for more. I lived here once. I had a home. I had friends. I had a love. With all I had still I could not rest. Now I am where I began and no closer to what I sought.
As I stood in the dusty road absently looking for anyone who might remember me, a child came near. She was beautiful in her homespun, hugging her rag dolly. She shielded her eyes from the sun with her hand as she looked up to me. “Hello,” she said. “Who are you?”
I replied that I was only a traveler passing through her village. “Where are you going?” she asked. I was sure she would not understand, but I was tired and could think of no other answer than the truth. “I lived here long ago. But I was not happy. I did not know myself. And so I walked away one day to search for my true self.”
“You went away to look for you?”
“Have you found you?”
“No. I don’t think I have.”
“I think that you are closer to you than you think you are.”
She laughed and then skipped away hugging her rag dolly, her bare feet kicking up little puffs of dust as she went.
The “journey” is a metaphor, course. It is useful. And it can be too easy. If we lean too heavy on the metaphor there is the hazard of the metaphor virtually replacing the thing itself in our contemplation and our conversation. It is good to set the metaphor aside for a while and think about what is behind it.