“Many Buddhists understand the round of birth-and-death quite literally as a process of reincarnation, wherein the karma which shapes the individual does so again and again in life after life until, through insight and awakening, it is laid to rest. But in Zen, and in other schools of the Mahayana, it is often taken in a more figurative way, as that the process of rebirth is from moment to moment, so that one is being reborn so long as one identifies himself with a continuing ego which reincarnates itself afresh at each moment of time.” Alan Watts
“Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.” – Jorge Luis Borges
Ancientrails began as an activity to fill time while my right leg healed from the insults of Achilles tendon repair surgery. That was in February of 2005. Since then, it has grown slowly, a word here, a word there until thousands of entries have built up, short comments and long ones, intelligent and impassioned, silly and contentious.
In truth I have no idea why I do this save for the therapeutic value of writing. That is, it fills a need I have to say my piece, much like my newspaper editor father did for years in his column, SmallTown, USA.
As I’ve thought about ancientrails, a happy accident of a title, they have become evident in all parts of our lives. Here are a few: love, child rearing, politics, gadgets, history, gardening, bee keeping, making money, building a strong body and a strong mind. I think of ancientrails as those long standing, if not always universal, paths that lead us where we think we want to go.
You’re on several ancientrails right now. I don’t know what yours are, but I can identify a few of mine: skeptical seeking, fighting for my beliefs in the arena of power, love (Kate), love (children and grandchildren), love (dogs), friendship (Woolly Mammoths, docents), beauty, self expression, tending to the vegetative world, bee-keeping, canine companion, traveler.
By naming these ancientrails I specifically say they are not unique to me. They are trails laid down long ago by other humans in other places and with much different particular content. But the trails are the same.
Francis Bacon in his Novum Organum offers a metaphor for the empirical method, which he championed. If you are on a path, he says, and it is the wrong path, the faster you move the faster you move away from your goal. The right path, no matter how slowly you proceed, will get you to your destination.
Choosing the ancientrails on which you travel may be the most important decisions of your life. Welcome to the journey.