And so I’m cast free into the world again, with more than a week to find out what comes next. Peace Corps, China 23. I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, but it’s not like anything I imagined but it’s exactly what I hoped for. Not something easy, not something pure, but something that would test me, maybe even break me one day. As long as I can recover, nothing else really matters.
I spent my last weekend in Chengdu by leaving with Jie and going to Leshan to see the great Buddha statue. It was amazing, but like so many other things it is lessened by the number of people there. The gaze of the Buddha looking out over the river, carved from soft stone that crumbles so quickly is matched with the endless repairs as people try to prevent the inevitable decay. It is a perfect monument of Buddhism, showing how temporary everything we do truly is. For all the majesty and wonder of life, it all ends.
I’ve been reading The Teachings of don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, and it suits in a way. Beyond all the hallucinations and distortion of reality there is a simple idea there that resonates with some of the questions I’ve been asking myself. Why China? Why abandon the world I knew? The reasons I once had don’t always satisfy me anymore, maybe because of how stressful the training is, or because of some of the ways reality failed to live up to my dreams.
Does this path have heart? I’ve never heard it put that way before, but I’ve heard that question a thousand times, asked it in a thousand different ways. All paths lead to death at some point, so looking at the end of the path is always the same. The path I am on goes nowhere, but so did the path I lead back in San Diego, and the one in Mexico, and Taipei, Atlanta, San Francisco.
I spent a lot of time looking for questions, and I still love finding one that really resonates with me, one that makes me think about the answer. A question that may never have an answer I can put into words. Does this path have heart?
I like to think it does, that I’m doing what I love because of love, not just to escape my fear. Which leads to the second point that resonated. The enemies of a man of knowledge. The first is fear, and I have never made it past this enemy. I live with it, walk with it, even talk to it sometimes, but it never really fades away. I’ve noticed it more over the past couple weeks, when I didn’t fail, when nothing went wrong, when I didn’t go home.
This is a hard thing to do. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again, but changing my path isn’t easy, and I don’t think it should be. I can do it, but I don’t think it should be done without question. All those people I’ve left behind who show their support or wish they could be here may have made the better choice, to stay on the path before them. As long as the path has heart there really is no reason to take the harder road.
I always liked the idea of the road less traveled, the life of the bard, but I don’t know that this is what that is. I don’t know that any road is less traveled anymore, or that I’m not just making my life harder than I need to. I have a new place here in Lanzhou, time to rest, to think back on the last couple months, and sitting in this void I find myself asking questions that I have asked so many times before.
But I also have a new question, or at least one that’s new to me. Does this road have heart. There are glimpses of heart even now, in the faces of strangers here in the street. In a small smile, or a wave as I pass through the security gate. I’ve only just begun, and there is heart.
I don’t know this city yet. It’s cold, and lately it’s been raining every day. It’s old and busy, but there is potential here. There is beauty and calm. I can understand people, and I can get what I need. I can make a home here. I don’t know if heart is something you find on the path or something you invest in it, but I only have control over one of those options, so I will go forward as best as I can. I will give heart to my path.