[Screen shot of photo above comes from this website, where I think you can buy the poster.]
My school's motto is, "Guided by each other, let us seek better paths." I really like the part about guiding each other, but I've been less sure lately about the path-seeking part. Some people here talk about finding the "best" path, a term that rubs me the wrong way. Obviously, I'm about to tell you why.
At any given moment, we have an unlimited number of choices about what to do next. We're heading toward not set paths, but a field of infinite options. We make decisions based on the information we have and can never know how the universe would have responded had we made other choices. Talking about seeking a better or best path implies that there are a number of roads ahead and that we can know somehow which will lead us to what specific destination. But we can't know. No other person has lived our same experiences, so there is no path to follow. Like footsteps on a beach, the path exists only when we look back at where we've been.
When we look behind us, we can see what path we've taken and learn more about where we might want to go and what we might want to avoid next. When I stepped on that shell, my foot hurt, note to avoid shells. When I veered to the side, I got wet, but when I went too far to the other side, I ended up in bushes, note to avoid side-veering. When I stepped in the wet sand, my foot sank down in a satisfying way that made a slurping sound I liked, note to find more wet sand.
From each step I took, I gained a new perspective of the area and learned about what served or didn't serve my objectives and emotions. There was no prescribed path that I took to get here, but in retrospect, I can review how I got to where I am. I can keep taking small steps in a direction I think will help me; then, every now and then, I can look around and stay the course or pivot. Either way, there is no path in front of me, only behind showing where I've been.
By saying that we need to find the "best path" or even a "better path," I fear that we imply that a best option exists. I worry that people who feel "off the path" might not want to bother to keep moving forward. Instead of trying to find a path, we need to focus on finding our way.
What do you think about paths? Can we see them ahead or only in the rear view? Please share any/all thoughts in the comments.