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  • William Patt

a journey of a thousand miles

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, ancient Chinese proverb.

In my experience, a journey of any significance starts a long way before you put your boots on. A journey starts with a wish, a desire, a longing, an urge, an inner compelling.

How does such an idea occur to the individual? It arrives in a myriad of ways, watching a film, hearing a story, reading a book or seeing a picture.

A journey starts with a dream.

For some people, sensible people, such dreams remain just that, dreams.

In 1956, Alan went to see a film called A Town Like Alice, he was sixteen. From the moment he fell in love with Virginia McKenna he also fell in love with Australia. He knew one day he would go to the little town of Alice Springs.

When he left school he stepped straight into a great apprenticeship as an electrical engineer. It was perfect timing because the “must have” invention of the century, the television, was arriving on the market and Alan could fix and repair them. He worked hard and made his money. He got married, bought a house and a car, had three children, bought a bigger house and then a newer car etc.

Many years later, children all grown up, divorced and remarried, he remembered he once had a dream. The problem for Alan though was a lifetime of habits. The house needed painting, the garage roof fixing, the kitchen replaced. A month here, half a year there, time just rolled on. One day, he went to the toilet and his urine looked like rusty water.

Alan was a sensible man, he was careful with his time and money, saving and investing for his retirement, he died from cancer a week after his 66th birthday.

The dead leave us a gift, a cold reminder that one day, much sooner than we would wish, we too will lay in a box.

One of the fantasies we create for ourselves in the technologically advanced west, is the belief we are in control of our lives. It is a terrifyingly dangerous fantasy. It lulls us into believing the future is much like the present, it just goes on for a bit longer. In this pretend future I will do all the things I dream of but not right now, not this second … I am too busy.

We live in a whirl of busy and this makes us tired. Tired and busy. Our lives don’t seem important unless we have things to do, places to go, people to see. To recover from being busy and tired we have to do things to relax. A lab rat on a wheel has more freedom.

The dead give us the gift of prescience, the ability to glimpse the future and envision our own end. What we do with such insight is perhaps our most difficult decision. It’s not for want of a dream we fail to act but the lack of courage.

When I was telling some people about my pilgrimage on the Camino one man said to me “I wish I could do that” and I replied “you can”. Apparently I was wrong, I got a list of all the reasons why the thing he told me he wanted to do, he couldn’t.

We have one shot at this life, just one. It’s not a rehearsal. It’s not like a fairground where we can go on the ride again. It’s not cable tv where we can pause or rewind, we are born, we live and we die, like taxes, inescapable.

This man didn't get it, maybe he will never get it.

So ... put your boots on, start walking and you might find, a thousand miles is not enough.

#GR20 #camino #theway #hiking

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