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Journey, Patience

A Road vs. A Path

Wendell Barry wrote movingly of the difference between road and paths.  The distinction he draws is powerful.


The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around. 

A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape; it seeks so far as possible to go over the country, rather than through it; its aspiration, as we see clearly in the example of our modern freeways, is to be a bridge; its tendency is to translate place into space in order to traverse it with the least effort. It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way. 


I need to remind myself of this difference all the time.  Life is a path, blessed by God.  My agenda sadly, most days, centers exclusively on building roads, forever stretching to move from one place to the other as rapidly as possible. 


In the contours of life, maybe better to return to the path, seeking to move gently with and through the landscape of our lives, versus charging with ever greater speed over it.