“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Lao Tzu
April 12, 2019
Life is a journey in myriad ways. What journey each individual takes is a personal choice, but choices abound.
Just like life offers you no choice whether you get to play the game of life, life offers you no choice whether to be on a path or not. Each of us are taking individual steps towards a specific bearing, in a particular direction, on a certain path. Each breath we take, each step we take, paves the current road we undertake, and the road that will forge itself ahead.
Whether individuals wish to take a literal journey (traveling to lands unknown), a spiritual journey (going to spiritual locales), a metaphorical journey (by reading a book or playing a video game), an imaginative journey (be creating a new path, a new journey) or something else, the choices are varied and intriguing as they are vast in scope.
Each path offers a drastically different adventure, not unlike what the great books of our past offered. Timeless books such as The Lord Of The Rings, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, The Odyssey, Paradise Lost, The Aeneid, and countless others, all offer a veritable quest under which the protagonist goes on the road of life, the personal journey. These roads taken, these journeys, mirror that of individuals in fictional form.
It is my contention that individuals gravitate towards these stories and myriad others because these mirror some of the more profound truths of life while wrapped in a journey of self-discovery that is always interesting to sink one’s mind into. That said, some of these truths on the road to self-discovery are aided by a character that is rarely is ever considered.
One could argue that this journey of self-discovery is aided by the most significant character you as an individual will encounter on the open road: the road itself.
Lord Of The Rings features the idea of the Road as a character in salient fashion.
In fact, Frodo opines on this notion in the Lord of the Rings, where he cautiously recalls what Bilbo sought to impart:
“[Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Not unlike cautioning contact with a stranger, the main lesson Bilbo wished to impart on Frodo was that there was more to ‘the Road’ than it seems at first blush.
To this end, in his noteworthy book, On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road Of Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis, author Louis Markos Ph.D. states:
“…the Road has a life of its own. It winds, bends, and turns in a thousand directions, ever ready to trap or mislead the unwary traveler. To set your feet to the Road is indeed a dangerous business, not only on account of the obstacles that you face along the way, but because the Road is akin to a living thing with which you must relate, struggle, and negotiate. It draws and lures you, tests and challenges you, either punishing or rewarding you for your troubles.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
Maybe the above notion is perhaps why certain individuals – like myself at times – have been reticent at at certain points to participate in certain journeys, whatever those may be. Perhaps deep down inside, this Road is life itself acting and showing us lessons, while being active because life by its very definition is alive. An interesting proposition to consider.
Perhaps it is fear of engaging with a greater something, something more significant. Fear is what held me back many times in life, and perhaps it was fear of ‘the Road’ – the journey; a possible derivative of life.
Side bar: there are many personal journeys of myriad types that I either did not engage in, and some of which I have chosen to take, though not always of my own accord initially. The commonalities each set of choices share is that those journeys I took, irrespective of what paths they were, always made me grow as a person. Conversely, the paths I did not take always left me feeling as if something unexplored withered to the sands of time.
Each of us individuals have paths we take, stories we live, and a future to unravel. What future that is will be highly dependent on what journey we undertake, and that’s saliently dependent upon whether we are open-minded to possibilities, or close-minded.
As individuals, each of us is not unlike Bilbo, where he was incredibly guarded of the Road. This could be because, deep down inside, at the being level, we must face something we have never faced before – ourselves – just as Luke Skywalker did in the cave.
Getting back on course, on this very notion of the Road, Markos notes:
“Since the Odyssey, nearly every epic hero has had to face at some point in his journey-quest the archetypal Descent into the Underworld. In the case of Virgil’s Aenid, Aeneas enters the realm of Hades as a grieving and defeated Trojan, but emerges as the Father of the Roman Empire. In the case of Dante’s Inferno, Dante enters the yawning pit of Hell as a confused and despairing pilgrim who has lost his way, but emerges as a renewed believer who his regained his purpose, vision and calling.”
These two examples show the development a character, an individual, may undergo under such a path. This is because:
“It is dangerous thing to walk out your door, but without risk there is no real development, no self-knowledge, no awareness of the choices that one must make.”
Without going on a personal quest, on a journey of this magnitude, there is no significant growth.
And isn’t that one of the ideas life is about, growth, the personal evolution of the individual?
Consider that the Road was incredibly important to Tolkien. Given its significance, Tolkien deliberately chooses to show the road in the very first chapter of Lord Of The Rings:
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.”(I.i.35)
“Far ahead the Road has gone,” implying the Road is alive, just like life.
To hammer-down the point, Tolkien anchors the road, anchors his book in the closing chapter, sprinkling a newfound vision of what the road offers:
“Still round the corner they may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
“A day will come at last when I shall take the hidden paths”. Paths that that aren’t readily discovered but are there; paths that are waiting for discovery by the individual.
All the answers lie within those two poems, all the answers lie within the road – within life itself.
Whatever road you – the individual – choose to take will ultimately give you a broader view of the possibilities that life offers, the possibilities that your personal quest holds.
Regardless, hidden paths await; roads of self-discovery, roads of growth.
Personal roads that can only be walked by you – the individual.
 Louis Markos Ph.D., On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road Of Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis, quoted from Lord Of The Rings, p. (I.iii.72).
 Ibid., pp. 41-42.
 Ibid., pp. 45-46.
 Ibid., pg. 44.
 Ibid., p. 59, quoted from Lord Of The Rings, p. (I.i.35).
 Ibid., p. 59, quoted from Lord Of The Rings, p. (VI.ix.1005).
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About The Author:
Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, inquirer, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, and freelance writer who aims at empowering individuals while also studying and regularly mirroring subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.