Life may be a journey, but it also feels very much like a steep climb at times. Sometimes we fall down, get up, brush ourselves off and continue our climb. There are times when we consider our chosen paths, its obstacles, and the difficulty of the climb. We may look for easier paths, or we might look for ways around obstacles even if it means backtracking around them. Other people can make suggestions or even help us climb, carry us, or otherwise help us along the
Imagine the following scene: you are hiking a mountain trail that leads to the top of the mountain. You are picking your way around obstacles, stopping to rest and absorbing the beauty around you when, suddenly, you are confronted by a group of people who berate you over the path you have chosen. They insist you are on the wrong path, and that you will never reach the top, or they implore you to choose their path because you are headed for destruction. Perhaps you are curious, and you ask them to lead you to their path. “Oh no, you cannot hike our path dressed like that,” they say. “You need to shave and get a haircut before you join us on our path.” Sound familiar? I can’t recall encountering such a group on a literal hike up a mountain, but when used as a metaphor for life journeys, it begins to make sense.
There are plenty of people who eagerly use every opportunity to tell people with different spiritual or worldviews how the same are on the wrong path, and how the only way is their way. Often, self-righteousness triggers indignation toward those people who are different from them. When this happens, informing turns to berating and seeking fault just to make them feel superior to others.
First, we have the clause: “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain…” Actually, if this is a metaphor for life journeys, perhaps it should read: “There are billions of paths up the mountain…” But wait—Hindus believe in reincarnation, so “hundreds of paths” may be accurate. (Sorry, got lost in the details for a moment there.) Whatever a particular interpretation, the implied meaning appears to be that there are numerous and sundry paths “all leading to the same place.” What is “the same place”? Why—the mountaintop, of course.
Um…? Let’s consider the general shape of most mountains. They start with a base that is broader than their peaks. Thus it is reasonable to presume that at least some of the paths will converge the higher someone climbs. Intriguing, to say the least. However, will the paths converge because some people coerce other people to take the same path they chose? No, the paths will converge due to the topographical nature of the mountainous terrain. As altitude increases, the terrain loses the broader, more expansive area of its base, forcing hikers to converge onto fewer paths. Again—intriguing. Think about this, if the peak of the mountain is distinct and sharp, will all hikers be able to experience the top of the mountain simultaneously? Um…?
Okay, enough of the deep abstract implications. Let’s move on to the next clause of the proverb: “…so it doesn’t matter which path you take.” Some paths will take longer to hike, but it is likely they will be less steep and easier to walk. Um…? Other paths may be quite steep; they will not take as long to hike, but the climb will be strenuous and tiring. Either way, “…it doesn’t matter which path you take” because they all lead to the mountaintop.
Next, we have the clause: “The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain…” Running around the mountain expends energy and time that can be used to climb closer to the mountaintop, so this person (or persons) is wasting time. Whose time are they wasting? Their own and those people who are stopping—oh wait—we need to go ahead and mention the last clause: “…telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” Think about the implications of the last two clauses: A person is wasting time, both his or hers as well as the people who stop to listen or try to heed his or her warnings to change paths, by “running around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” What this person does not realize is that some of the paths will eventually converge as the altitude increases; but even if they don’t converge, they are all leading to the mountaintop. Plus, they are interfering with other people’s journeys for no valid reason. Did you notice the proverb does not condemn this person; it states he or she is merely “wasting time” by not focusing more time and energy on his or her own journey. Oh sure, he or she may be genuinely concerned about other people’s spiritual well being, but based on the proverb, such activity is a waste of time.
By now you are probably wondering what is this guy doing with all this vague, rambling text? Well, let me see if I can condense and clarify my interpretation and thoughts:
If someone chooses a different path than you, why are you so concerned? Keep
climbing and know that you may encounter him or her farther along your journey
because your paths might converge as you climb higher. In other words, just
focus on your own chosen path and journey, and let other people climb at their
own pace while remaining on their own chosen paths. Now this is not to say that
if someone needs help or advice along the way, or they seek guidance—of their
own freewill—you don’t provide the same in a spirit of love, tolerance, and
acceptance. Just don’t waste your time trying to convince them to change
paths until they either ask you for guidance, or your paths converge farther up
the mountain. One last thing: don’t be surprised at whom you encounter near the
mountaintop or how crowded it may be up there.