“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau remembered the old Indian trails all over New England and they suggested comparisons with the ways of the mind. My father could still recognize those “dents in the ground” as a child I walked with him on some of those ancient ways. I never realized then, how rare such seeing was.
As I look back on it I more than ever appreciate the mind of an historian who doubled as an archaeologist. There were no local native campsites, ceremonial mounds or early American cellar holes that hadn’t come under his scrutiny. My father mapped out a world invisible to the untrained eye and wrote and lectured about it.
The whole world is connected by such well worn walkways but we have to travel and re travel them in order to keep our way clear. It is only since we have been diverted from these paths in recent years that we have begun to go astray. The old ways always led us forward to build on our accumulated learning. The new ways, too often, are like wrong turns in a maze that only lead to closed hedges and high walls.
Even the roads “less travelled by…” were still roads. And some of the wisest among us have reported on their journeys for the good of all. Out of all this we built our religion, history, literature, and our value system. We cannot allow that “deep mental path” to be bulldozed away by a few years of spiritual, moral and ethical laxity.
So here’s to returning to those old pathways and all the gains that lay along the way as we walked. Remembering the centuries we remember ourselves. And how far we have truly come.
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