Friday, August 26, 2011

The Road by L. Truman Daley-Douglas

A while back, I came up with an analogy about things. It's a construct or "framing", a way to think about people. I deemed it "The Road". Imagine life as a road we are all on. Most people are merely traveling the same road as everyone else. They don't really have a destination or even know where they are going but are just sort of moving along with the crowd. I know Richard Bach wrote something similar to this in one of his books ("One" or "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"?) A lot of people are like this. Forever following the crowd unaware of where they are going or even why they are following the road they're on. They are pissed at the road and don't understand it but mindlessly follow it. They can't see where they are going but think just the process of moving along will eventually get them somewhere. They think the direction that everyone is following, if nothing else, must be okay and must lead somewhere. Of course, they are wrong in this. Moving on a road that goes nowhere, that has no clear destination is just wasted energy. (Or rather energy someone else is using from them for their own purposes).

Others get off the road and stay on the side forever in some small town or big city or just stuck somewhere in their heads. Their journey has ended and they remain stagnate or, if reflective, or "smart", or calm enough, could grow in their stable fixed space but in some very different personal way. I have seen this in some people, but very few. A fictional character in this would be Larry Darrell from the "Razor's Edge" by W. Somerset Maugham.

Other people never even get on the road at all. A lot of the Midwestern people I got to know are like this. They are afraid to even leave their spot on the earth, both physically and mentally. They desire what they know and are pissed at any deviation. The road to them is horror and vice and evil. It is a scary place. Their roads, if they even have a road they do travel, go in small full circles and lead to the same places over and over again. They are safe and familiar. These people, to me, seem happier on some level in their chosen ignorance. But their growth is stunted or never occurring at all. They go back into their fixed ways and do what they do. They are moving in a different way than the mass who moves toward some unknown location, but still there is no other destination than what they already know. When I go back to places like Grand Forks, North Dakota, I see this. Everything in that place stays the same or if there are any changes at all, they are merely variations on the exact same things. Everything there is fixed. Not moving. Solid, stable, but never growing.

The other pattern in my analogy I have seen is those with a clear destination for their journey on the road. They know exactly where they want to go and move towards that goal. Their destination is fixed and the road is the way to get them there. Of these people, some will never make it towards their destination. Others will give up and end up on different paths altogether, with new destinations they dream up. Others will simply get off to the sidelines and go into one of the other road sets I mentioned before. Some will eventually make it to their destinations and once there, realize that there are other places to go too and will dream them up and start moving again. These "destination" people are the ones for me. They are on a quest. The mad ones that Jack Kerouac really spoke of in his opus "On the Road" (and not the hippies that the media wants us to think he was talking about).

Now, in my analogy of the road, there is also the "CAR". The car is the thing that enables one to get to a destination. For people going nowhere, their cars are fueled by some belief that the road must go somewhere or that the direction is at least correct since everyone else is on it. They keep just enough fuel in their cars to keep moving. They may break down or run out of gas, but they eventually get fixed or refueled and move along. In their minds, movement is key, even if they are traveling nowhere. The people who move in the circle roads that only lead to the same destinations on a tiny circular path don't really have to have much fuel or even need much fuel, since they are going in circle nowhere anyway. Moving isn't important to them. Their destination always leads them to the same places. It doesn't even matter if they move at all. Everything to them stays the same.

I have known a few people with a clear destination for their journey. Some of their destinations I have ridiculed as just dumb places to head towards. But I know, in fairness, at least they have THOUGHT about where they want to go and have a clear way to travel and aren't just following the masses. The thing about those with destinations, is that the cars they travel in sometimes cannot make their proposed journeys. And this is what makes some of these people retarded.

I grew up with my own father talking of building an empire, having castles, and building a family dynasty. And though he had a clear destination and somewhat of a path to get there, he never possessed a car or vehicle capable of reaching this place. He lacked any real education, any real credentials, the drive, and even common sense. What he did have was fuel and plenty of it. His fuel was his belief in where he wanted to go. That the destination was worth it. He always kept his eyes on this place. His heart and soul longed for it. And his fuel, though lowered at times, was always there. He tried all his life. But fuel, even an unlimited amount of it, in an inefficient vehicle, won't get you far. And if your car isn't in good shape to begin with, it won't take you anywhere because it will keep breaking down.

I have seen my father on this road towards his destination forever. He never gets off his road. He sees the destination and strives towards it. I can admire that. I can admire not getting off the road, staying the course, having the fuel in believing. But his problem was another as well. Many roads can lead to the same place. He didn't know enough roads to get to his destination. The more shortcuts we know, the more alternative routes available to us, the quicker and easier the way becomes-even if we had a shittier car or little fuel to begin with. I have seen and read about a lot of entrepreneurs who have achieved a lot with so little to go on because they knew a shortcut and even though they didn't have to have a great "car" or even a lot of fuel to begin with. A shortcut alone rarely works, but it can. But you still have to have a destination, a car, some fuel, and the ability to drive even the short distance. Everything factors in.

I remember as a teenager, my father pleading with my brother and myself to help him on his journey. To go with him to his better place. That his destination was worthy. That everyone else was going nowhere and that his destination was good for everyone in our family. And he was right. And yet he would break down constantly. He had the fuel, but his car sucked. He put Band-Aids on everything to get the car moving again, but the quick fixes never stuck. We'd move up a few miles and break down again and again. Always on the road, always with the fuel, but never with a decent vehicle to really get any closer. And never any shortcuts. Once things got moving again, he'd always break down. I gave up on him. On his car. But not his destination, only the road and car being used to get there.

I have seen through him, that belief and a destination is not enough. Having a destination, as important and as MONUMENTAL as this is, is not enough. Having belief to fuel things is also not enough. Your car must be able to make it. It must be capable. It must withstand breakdowns and if stalled, must be fixed correctly before moving on. Everything is needed to make the journey. A destination, plenty of fuel, and a decent vehicle to get there. A shitty little car will not be able to cross mountains if mountains are where you want to go.

You also have to be able to drive and know how to navigate the obstacles. You have to have the ability to take shortcuts and seek them out and be confident in alternate routes all the same. Embrace them. Be courageous. This all takes time, research, and patience.

I have seen people try to get to their destinations without enough fuel. They always fizzle out. They are constantly trying to refuel, even if they have a decent car to make the journey. I see them either on the road as stalled or pushed aside with hopes to continue onward.

I have seen people like my father with plenty of fuel but shitty cars. They always break down. They always needed repairs done before they can move on.

I have seen people with clear destinations but fixed on the same road to get there. Roads that should have been avoided for better routes or shortcuts, but through stubbornness or non-thinking, were never taken.

A lot of people have an obscure destination they want to go towards. Some 'hazy" idea of where they'd like to be and where they'd like to go. Everyone wants something. But most have no idea how to or will not make the complete efforts to achieve this thing. They don't want to pick a clear destination. Don't want to have to fuel and refuel. Don't want to get a decent vehicle. Don't even want to learn how to drive! They want to get to their vague destination via ROCKET SHIP, ala a winning lottery ticket. But this rarely happens and when it does, these people can't handle the place they got to once they got there. Because they lacked what they needed for the journey. It's like sending people to the moon without the correct gear. You read about them- these famous people who are depressed and die of drug overdoses because they can't handle it, and these "miserable lottery winners" who lose it all because they just didn't have the vehicle needed to match where they ended up. And it's a sad state.

Because a destination alone is not enough. Everything must be factored in for the journey. The car and the fuel. The ability to take shortcuts and different routes. And the ability and stamina and determination to drive all the way.

And I imagine myself, driving by all these people- who are broke down and stalled, sometimes off the road altogether. I'm in a decent car with plenty of fuel, knowing exactly where to go, knowing how to drive, and being able to steer safely pass the obstacles, willing to go through alternate routes-going so far as to even building my game plan to plan for and even achieve these possible alternate routes. And I imagine myself as helping those others, those on the "quest", to get on their way as well. That is where I am in my own head. Preparing for the next leg of the journey. Better car, plenty of fuel. Figuring out the best road to get us there.

-L. Truman Daley-Douglas
Guest Contributor

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