As you walk along that journey of 1,000 miles, each step you take will be roughly two feet long. Thus the whole journey will take roughly 2,640,000 steps. If you take 26,400 steps and cover ten miles each weekday and take every weekend off, your journey will take 20 weeks. If you start on Groundhog Day and persevere in this schedule, you will reach your destination on June 21. You will go from the dead of winter to the first day of summer.
Along the way, of course, the scenery will change – not just every day, but every hour, and sometimes every few minutes. And a change of scenery can trigger a change of mind and a change of course, testing your commitment and your perseverance. Ascending a hill, you mostly see what’s at the top of the hill; as soon as you reach the top, however, you see for miles ahead what is over that hill. On the way up, you may be telling yourself that it’s been all uphill so far (i.e difficult), but will soon be all downhill (i.e. easy). The view from the top of the hill can be inspiring and challenging by opening our eyes to whole new vistas.
But not always. If we thought the Emerald City of Oz was on the other side of that hill but it turns out to be the Garbage Dump of Swampy County – well, what do we do then? The phrase “all downhill from here” takes on a whole new meaning. We talk a lot about being inspired and challenged to climb the hills we encounter in our lives, but we often avoid talking about the anticlimax of being “over the hill.”
Even if we find the new view just over the hill to be revolting or disgusting, we often keep on keeping on, driven not by commitment and perseverance but by confusion or faith in some misguided ideology. Or we may give up and head back down the hill we just climbed. If we’re smart, however, we will consult a reliable compass, cook up a course correction, and head for the hills on the left or the right. That may mean finding a whole new path or blazing a whole new trail.
Changing your mind and changing your course can mean pioneering. It can sometimes lead to changing the world. Don’t forget Saul of Tarsus changing his name to Paul on his way to Damascus in the first century. Don’t forget Honest Abe Lincoln changing his mind about containing slavery and announcing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Don’t forget Don Christ changing career and becoming an entrepreneur in 1955. (Sorry about that last one: Don Christ was my Pop, whose career as a jazz musician ran out of gas when Elvis Presley popped up.)
This isn’t really a story, but if it were, the moral of the story might be that the scenery on the journey often changes our minds as we move forward, then left, then right, and sometimes backward, but ultimately usually forward again. We learn as we go, and we are able to keep going only if we are able to keep learning. Perseverance is good; stubbornness is not good. Flexibility is good; aimlessness is not good.
It often seems like life is just one hill after another. And if we’re traveling with other people, which we almost always are, that complicates the journey quite a bit. But that’s a moral for another story.