Path or Trail?

IN THE LAST POST, A Baron, Fried Chicken & Trailblazing, I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

A little background refresher: remember Emerson was a good friend and mentor to Henry David Thoreau. It was on Emerson's land near Walden Pond where Thoreau lived his two year, two month and two day experiment in roughing it for self-reliance sake. As a result, we have Thoreau's book Walden--one of my favorites. Here's an abridged line from the book:


"I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived".

Maybe this adventure was inspired partly because of his mentor's talk of paths and trails. Maybe it was partly because of his own observation that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

In that last post I mentioned a few things I hoped people might say about me, if they say anything at all... someday... One of the things I don't want them to say is "he lead a life of quiet desperation." Let me clear something up: my objective in life is not to live in such a way that people will have good things to say at my funeral. Hopefully that will just be the honest summary of the reflection, sprinkled with a dash of our tendency to remember the newly departed a little better than they were. (Okay so you can add, "and he was cynical.")

While we're clearing things up, please don't assume that I count my life to this point as hollow and desperate just because I'm intrigued about trailblazing. At this point, I take a look back and say, (with all humility of course) "So far; so good." In fact as I look back and count my blessings I can even say, in the words of my friend Grady Nutt, "So good; so far."

Back to this whole Trail (slash) Path thing. I researched (googled) the difference between the two and found this:


"A path is a trail in which all vertices (except perhaps the first and last ones) are distinct. It seems at first glance that a path could also be defined as a walk in which all vertices (except perhaps the first and last ones) are distinct.
By this definition it would appear that a path is automatically a trail, because if an edge were to be retraced in any walk, then the vertices at either end of it would necessarily be visited more than once. However, under this looser definition, the walk u→v→u for two adjacent vertices u and v, for example, would fit the definition of a path, and therefore be a cycle. But such a walk is not a trail, as the edge uv would be traversed twice. Hence the insistence that a path is a type of trail."

What the What?

I guess we're on our own to decide the difference and get at what Emerson was saying.

In the last post, I mentioned that I had an issue or two with Ralph's rhetoric. Here's my main objection. He seems to be implying that there is only one trail and one path. I hope he's wrong. I think I can prove he is.

We'll take up there in the next post I'll call: "WHERE IS Ralph WALDO Emerson?"