The Journey and the Destination
“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump
Mrs. Cog and I live at the end of a dirt road off of a dirt road off of a back road up on the beautiful Blue Ridge Plateau of Southwestern Virginia. God’s country as I’m fond of saying to just about anyone who’s willing to listen. But we are (intentionally) a ways off the beaten path, which means we must travel more than a mile of dirt road before we hit first pavement of the day.
Once we arrive at that first intersection, where brown dirt greets blacktop, life for us is not much different than just about anyone else pulling out of their suburban driveway or parking lot for the first time that day. We seemingly face a choice; turn left or turn right. Oftentimes we believe our choices in life are dictated solely by our ultimate destination, and thus we feel there’s no real choice to be selected at all. I owe I owe, so off to work I go.
The paved side road we initially reach, which in my mind is a classic utilitarian Destination road, runs more or less parallel to The Blue Ridge Parkway, an equally classic Journey road and a Virginia scenic byway. There are several points on the Destination road in either direction where we can turn directly onto the Parkway. In fact if we were to travel the Parkway for a hundred miles in either direction we would find that for much of the way there are dozens of side roads that run parallel to, or intersect with, the Parkway.
These days when I hit tarmac for the first time I try to pause a moment and ask myself a simple question. What type of path would I like to travel to get to where I’m going? In most cases the Journey road is much longer and more time consuming, but relaxing and wonderfully scenic. On the other hand the Destination road is just the opposite, narrow and twisty and demanding of my attention, but often more direct and much faster.
If you think about it for a moment, while the first decision point crossed may dictate several other choices that follow, there are often many combinations of routes you can travel to arrive at your final destination. And this is why for Mrs. Cog and I it is often not an either/or, left/right, Journey/Destination choice. Rather there is really no need to make a definitive choice driven solely by the destination unless we wish to select a specific chocolate from the box. And where’s the fun in that?
Precisely because the Parkway crosses all manner of back roads, lately if time allows (and I do try to allow for plenty of time these days) I have been using the Journey road as a gateway to explore all kinds of side roads I might never have traveled otherwise. The same applies to several Destination roads around here. Many meander back and forth through the hills and valleys and several join back up with the Parkway at various points. Half the fun of getting lost is finding your ‘self’ again.
For most of my life I have tended to travel unfamiliar roads just to see what’s down there. Once they are known to me I then attempt to work them into my travel routine as much as possible. Even if I have traveled a road dozens of times before there is always much more to see and learn along the way if only I would bother to really look rather than just to see.
One can find inspiration wherever one looks, a conscious choice we often ignore or don't even know exists. The truth of the matter is that I have always had endless possibilities to explore and I was just too blind or lazy (crazy?) to ever fully see them for what they are. One does not need to travel the plateau in order to experience the endless possibilities of each day. Life’s choices are only absolute ‘or’ rather than ‘and’ decision points commanded by circumstances or destination if I consciously decide to create them that way.
The truth is that whenever I wish to do so, I can close my eyes and reach into my box of chocolates to see what type of surprise or inspiration life has to offer. Ultimately it is not a choice of Journey or Destination, but rather Journey and Destination. We can have life's box of chocolates and eat it too because our conscious, aware and willing life choices either replenish or drain the box. Deliberately expand your field of choices, then act upon them and you will refill your box of chocolates.
If there is one theme that resonates with me, within Cognitive Dissonance, it is to question everything beginning with ourselves. Just because we have always turned left at the end of the driveway doesn’t mean we should do so today. Get up thirty minutes or an hour early and turn right instead. More than anything else you will do during your day, breaking from your routine in such a small but significant way will reinforce your continued awakening by changing your physical and mental perspective which in turn continues the freeing of the mind.
Next time you reach the first decision point in any aspect of your life (physical, spiritual, career, family, travel, hobby etc.) close your eyes and reach into life’s box of chocolates. You might be surprised what you pull out and where it will take you from there.