The Way It Is
The thread we all follow
There’s that awkward moment when someone asks you why you’re doing this, and the temptation is to trot out some answer taken from an inspirational quotation somewhere, or a piece of poetry, or something some celebrity has written on LinkedIn, or in all honesty anything we can lay our minds on to fill that awkward gap.
The answer is that I don’t know exactly. There are many aspects of it I could describe, from the spiritual through the philosophical to the intellectual, but none of them, or even a combination, will create an answer that convinces either of us.
What I do know is that whatever it is, it is there and that my best route to finding it is to write about it, or maybe to write about what it isn’t, until such time as I have an answer I’m prepared to give.
One of my favourite films is “The Way”, directed by Emilio Estevez. It is notionally the story of a father who heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while travelling the "El Camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself. It is beautifully written and acted, and I find it grounding each time I watch it. There is something of The Way in what I want to do now.
The change for me is to write for its own sake, with a theme as a guide but no destination, goal or timescale. It is about writing, doing it until what I have written explains why I’m doing it, and learning on the way.
There is something that feels vaguely monastic about it, something of a pilgrimage. Travelling with few possessions and trusting in the kindness of strangers. Following a faint trail more than a well-worn path, taking time to notice what is happening around me and inside me, and writing it down.
And see where I end up.
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread. William Stafford. The Way it is.
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