Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Goal of the Goal is Not the Goal

Before you embark on this journey, it is fair to remind you that I this journal is not about nature or the environment or canoeing for that matter.  It is a record of what I think about while I am canoeing...and it is mostly written when that stuff comes into my head...in the canoe.

I try sneaking past the first great blue heron but it spooks, stepping into the air and flying upriver ahead of me some 200 yards were it sets down on a bent deadfall tree that long ago bowed its head to the river.  As I near it once more, I slide over to the far bank and make no movements other than the rhythm of my paddling.  When I am even with it, it takes off again, but this time it flies back behind me to where I first saw it.

The second heron

The second heron also spooks as I near it, flying upriver a hundred yards.  As before, it stays put, eying me as I pass.  It only takes flight when I drift towards it while looking through the viewfinder of my camera.  But, like the first, it flies back into the area where I first saw it.

The third heron takes off from the shady bank and flies some 400 yards or more upriver, to the point where the eye can still resolve it, but where one would not notice it if one did not know it was there.  When I near, it takes up and flies upriver again, but only a short 100 yards and it settles on a snag pile on the sunny side of the river.  I cross over to the shady bank to give it more space and it stays put until I am even with it, where it takes wing and returns to someplace near its original location.

The fourth heron announces itself by casting a shadow on the trees.  I look up and watch it pass overhead.  I had nothing to do with it.

Some might confuse me for a birdwatcher but no, birds are just the prime social fabric for someone traveling by canoe...you might notice that I rarely mention songbirds.  One has to stand still for songbirds...my birds are the big ones that stand along the byway.  I am on a journey and that is, after all, what canoeing is, at least ever since the Hudson Bay Company stopped transporting goods by canoe. 

The goal of the goal is not the goal.  It is the journey to the goal that is the goal.  We are blessed with all too many people who think that the goal is the purpose.  Our government is clogged with people who have risen to high elevated lofty regal positions seemingly without ever pausing to absorb the experience of the journey - the experience of knowing the people that they represent and are supposed to understand.  We have MBA's, CEO's and a plethora of alphabet soup individuals who have sought the fast track to the top unaware of the lessons that need to be learned by actually earning those positions, and we see them trash companies and put people out of work all too often, using buzz word excuses about profit and good business to hide their ignorance and greed.

The canoe is about the journey, and only a few of the people that I've taken out in the canoe have ever said something that indicated that they understood that.  They have in common the fact that they paddled several days with me, either one at a time or in a block.  Either way, the repetition crept into their core understanding.  It made me happy to hear each of these people say something that indicated to me that they were not just in the canoe with me, but on a journey with me... and on a journey with themselves.

Recently, I watched a documentary that included Yvon Chouinard, one of the good guys of the golden age of American mountaineering.  There was a short moment revolving around Mt. Everest.  As late as the mid-1970's, if one wanted to climb Mt. Everest, one spent 3 weeks hiking in to the base, and 3 weeks hiking back out after the climbing was done.  Now, people pay tens of thousands of dollars to be guided to the top.  They fly into the base, Sherpas fix ropes to the top, and the "climbers" follow the ropes.  The journey is missing, the meeting Nepalese along the way is missing, the walking from jungle to the top of the world is gone.  All of the personal transformation that occurs as one moves towards a goal happens during the journey. Shortcut the journey and you do nothing but screw yourself over... you become the King of Shit with nothing to show for it.  Anyway, Chouinard's comment on climbers paying $80,000 to be guided to the top of Mt. Everest is, "They're assholes when they go in, and they're assholes when they come out."   I wish I had said that.

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