Contemporary philosopher A.C. Grayling is fond of including somewhat startling but self-evident facts in his writing. He will tell you, for instance, that the average human life span is somewhere around a thousand months long; that's a span of time you can actually count out on your hands...one hundred times and that's it. His follow-on statement is that such a short time is not to be wasted by living one's life without purpose. What purpose you might ask? Grayling warns that life is not a bank balance, a sheaf of investments, a pile of bricks and mortar. "No", he says, "every day I live, I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well." Smart man, that A.C. Grayling.
One of the by-products of the last 120 months of my life has been the understanding and acceptance that I've been on a journey that suddenly took a different path. I'm not certain what path I was on before that change in direction, I just know it was not the same path I'm on now. I can point out some of new aspects of my life that have come about since my path altered, but none of them explain the change. I think they are mostly symptoms of being on a different path, but still on a journey.
And, since I'm on the topic of the journey, I might as well tell you that that is how I see life - as a journey. It's a journey with a beginning and an end and that's about all that I'm allowed to know for certain. How long the journey will last, who will accompany me, will it be hard or easy - those are all things that I cannot know. I can hope for them, pray for them, work towards them - but I am never allowed to know for certain. There was a time in my life when that "not knowing" would have plagued me to no end; now, I find a certain peace in the realization that it's not my job to know what life will bring, just to live it fully.
I think the path I was walking changed direction when I came to church, back in late 2003 or early 2004. Have you ever heard the claim, "you don't have to go to church to be a good person?" That was my claim; I said it to myself and to others whenever I was pressed about faith and church and what I believed in. It took my Mom's fatal illness to get me to church, albeit as chauffeur and dutiful son, rather than someone seeking religion. When she died, I stayed...stayed on the path I had stepped on to. When I look back on where it has taken me, in only 120 months, I am staggered by the distance travelled, the new spiritual landscape that surrounds me, the variety of travellers I have met on the way. This new path is a lot more challenging than that previous path, I think mostly because there are more people using it for their journey. Most of the people I meet on that path are very different than the ones I used to travel with. A few of them have the same outward appearance as those I encountered on the other path, but I can tell, somehow, that on this particular path we are sharing, they are not the same. Perhaps, that is because I'm not the same either?
It's interesting to take the time to look at a person I knew from the old path and who I now encounter on this new path. Are we both the same? Have we both changed or is it only me who sees things differently on this new life route? A.C. Grayling, the philosopher that I started with, would probably tell me that because I've changed, everyone and everything else changes too. I don't know whether to apologize to those other pilgrims on my path or just hope they appreciate the changes as much as I do.