I was recently chatting with an old friend who'd just finished her internship and had taken a small break to go home for a while. I'd asked her if she had enjoyed working in the role she'd chosen when she replied saying that it had been a great learning experience and awesome fun with brilliant people and all that, but not something she'd want to do for the rest of her life. That got me thinking, because I've known some pretty smart people who, despite their flair for success and their addiction to excelling, rarely know what they really want to do in the long term. I replied to her emphatically, saying:
"There is very little in life we do now that we want to do for the rest of it."
Granted, this isn’t path breaking ideology here. I’ve heard this argument enough times and more at various stages of my life and in different forms. But there is that oft quoted difference between knowing the path and walking it. And discovering it on your own - discovering the exact path, finding it with your own eyes - is really different from asking someone for directions and walking towards where they point their finger. It goes something like this.
You’re at one edge of a clearing with tall grass in the woods and you have to get to a certain point on the other side, so you ask someone for directions. He/She (let's not be sexist) points to a particular tree amongst all the others at the other end of the clearing and you walk towards it. There could be a path across the clearing but you can see the tree anyway so why bother? But then imagine that while moving towards the tree, a sudden gust of wind clears the foliage in front of you for an instant and you catch sight of a dirt track for ever so brief a moment.
Now you know that there’s a path. You’re still walking towards the tree, but you know there’s a path even though you’re not walking exactly on it. Only now that you know there’s a path, and others have used it to get to exactly where you can see yourself arriving at, you don’t really want to find it because you know that you’re going to end up at the place where you wanted to be anyway (or at least you believe that you will).
So you’re like, fine, I’m sure I’ll get there my own way. And you build this ego around yourself saying that you’ll make your own path and don’t have to follow anyone. By now you’ve gotten about halfway from where you started when there’s another gust of wind, and you suddenly see that the path you’ve been following has been the path everyone else has been talking about all this while. The thing is, it’s still your path, because you followed it out of your own volition and not simply because it was there or someone pointed it out to you. But it’s everyone else’s path as well.
And in some strange way, you realise that it’s not about being unique or leaving your own trail or anything like that. That doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t even matter where you’re going. Everyone else is just as lost but heading in some general direction, just as you are. There aren’t many people with a plan. And even for the few that do have them, there are always variables in life. Things thrown our way, hands dealt to us that just don’t seem fair. And even if there isn’t, nothing in life is really certain.
What does matter is that when the breeze dies down and the path that was so clear for just an instant disappears again, and for a minute you lose track of the tree that was pointed out to you at the beginning amongst all the others, you can’t just stop and wait for another breeze to blow. You have to take a leap of faith and take a small step forward instead.
Nicolas Cage has acted in better movies. His character in the 2007 movie, Next, can see two minutes ahead into the future. Here's some simple logic (or so it seems to me) as to why this premise is flawed.
Consider hero at three different points in time. 0 (present), +2 (2 minutes into the future), and +4 (4 minutes into the future). At +2 point in time, he will know what happens to him at +4 point in time. But at 0 point in time, he will know what he knows at +2 point in time. Ergo, he knows what will happen at +4 point in time as well, and hence, by the principle of mathematical induction, he will know what happens at a future point, say +6 point in time, and so on, ad infinitum.
I'm not saying that the movie is bad, heck I haven't seen it yet. It's just that it doesn't make sense to define it by saying that it'll be limited to only two minutes into the future. Sure, you can poke holes in this argument and say that maybe he sees what happens two minutes ahead and not what he sees two minutes ahead. But then that's just semantics.
Fine. I'll admit it. This was more an exercise in banter than an actual test of reason. But the subject matter doesn't really inspire, so I consider myself absolved.
It was the same place we had been to more than two years ago. I remember now that it was where we'd first spent any time alone together. So much had changed and so much stayed the same. Cats and mice were running around at our feet and not a soul passed us as the raging night wore on, squalid rain clouds hurling bolts of terrible lightning and just the two of us - talking, not talking, feeling, being.
It was the same place where she had asked me for help and it was here that she told me I would have to go it alone. Some things, indeed, do come full circle.