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Even with a map in your hand, you may be following the wrong way

I recently came to a park south of the city where I live, and shortly after starting to walk on the trail that begins at the park gate, I came across a young couple walking in the opposite direction. Just when we crossed, the man, map in hand, said to his companion: "We walked so much that we must be close to reaching the dam."

They went their way and I mine, without any opportunity for me to tell them anything. But if I had had that opportunity, then I would have told them that the dam they were looking for was not near the park gate but precisely at the other end of the park, several miles away.

The young couple had probably been walking for a long time and mistook the length of their walk for the approach to the destination they wanted to reach. But, contrary to what they assumed and expected, every step took them away from their destiny. Every step made things worse, even with the map in hand. 

I'm sure the couple eventually made it to the park gate and at that point they must have asked someone at the reception office where the dam, only to find that they had walked in the wrong direction. Perhaps they took it as an adventure and perhaps even shared it laughingly among their acquaintances.

But on the path of life walking the wrong path is not an adventure, but a misfortune. And it is not a comedy, but a tragedy. In fact, in an old compilation of proverbs it is read that "There is a way that appears to people as a right (convenient), but it is a way that leads to death (self-destruction)." That teaching is seldom taught today. 

Finding the right path means having the ability to mistrust the map that one has in hand, whatever that map may be (book, dogma, teaching, idea, belief, guru or whatever). The map and the territory are not the same. If I have a map of Paris in my hand that doesn’t mean that I know Paris. Also, the map may be incorrect, or you may not know how to interpret it. 

Among the Greek philosophers, finding and following the right path ("path" in Greek is "hodós") was to find a "method". Furthermore, the first followers of the teacher from Nazareth (who simply said, "I am the way") called themselves "Those of the way." And, as we know, in the East "way" has a name that is still used today: Tao.

Finding and following the right path was so important that Heraclitus taught that "The way up and down is the same," a teaching that today our minds and hearts can’t comprehend. There is no doubt that we have lost our way, even with the map in our hands. Therefore, we wander through life without direction, direction, or meaning.

As Spanish poet Antonio Machado once wrote: "Wayfarer, there is no way. The way is made by walking".

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