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

IF YOU'VE BEEN READING THE LAST FEW POSTS, you know this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson has had me thinking--about being a trailblazer.

I guess if we're supposed to be trailblazers, we need to know what one looks like. Maybe we can figure that out by taking a closer look at a few. A few of my favorites:

Left to Right: Amelia Earhart, pioneer; Dr. Jonas Salk, a very important trailblazer to all of us Baby Boomers; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visionary; Steve Jobs, designer, solution finder; Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher, poet, worldview shaper.

So what comes to mind? Adventurous, activist, bold, badassed, curious, courageous, driven, determined, enlightened, earnest, free-spirited, fervent, etc. etc.

What about motive? What is the spark in the heart of a true trailblazer: altruism, notoriety, a death-wish, financial gain, service to a cause greater than themselves, or maybe they just can't help it.

Well; WHERE IS Ralph WALDO Emerson in the matter of trail-blazing? RECESS!

That's right, it just may be that Ralph Waldo Emerson is responsible for one of my favorite things about school: recess.

From the course description on Emerson, Thoreau and Transcendentalism taught by Dr. Ashton Nichols, University of Virginia:

"Where did the America we know today—so different in its fundamental views about almost every aspect of life as to be unrecognizable to our countrymen of two centuries ago—really come from? How, for example, did the colonial idea of the classroom as a place devoted to "breaking the will" and "subduing the spirit" of students, change to that of a vibrant, even pleasurable experience—including innovations such as kindergarten and recess—with children encouraged to participate actively in their own education?" 

Emerson and Thoreau are important (to me at least) because I tend hard to Transcendentalism: an emphasis on the divine in nature, on the value of the individual and intuition, and on belief in a spirituality that might "transcend" one's own sensory experience to provide a more useful guide for daily living than is possible from empirical and logical reasoning.

Before you can be a trailblazer, you have to believe that you are free to, and capable of, trail-blazing. If you hold to a view of pre-destination, you are obviously, pretty much placed on a predetermined path--obviously. If you hold to a religious creed that has the effect of breaking the will and subduing the spirit; why? 

"But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic monotony that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G.K. Chesterton, trailblazer.

Maybe God wants us to have recess. Maybe He wants us to be immersed in creativity and play. Maybe that's the essence of trailblazing--having "the eternal appetite of infancy."

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?"


A Baron, Fried Chicken & Trailblazing


There were two of us "souls" on this twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, the pilot and me. The pilot was my dear friend Steve--an excellent pilot by the way; thank God. We had just taken off from Boise, Idaho, headed for Portland, Oregon. The air-traffic controller comes on the radio and says something like, "I'll be losing radio contact with you for awhile, give me your vital information." So Steve says, "There are two souls on board." and gives our names, the phone numbers of our next-of-kin, etc.

We're over the Rockies, presumably, the clouds are so thick you can't see tomorrow. Then Steve says, "That's not good!"

Two people you never want to hear that from: your pilot and your doctor.

The crisis involved the plane's wings and props beginning to ice up. Long story; happy ending. After all, I'm sitting here typing this on a lovely Saturday morning with a good cup of coffee.

There are those moments for us "men of a certain age" when we wonder what kind of mark we're leaving. Not to sound morbid (and for the record, I'm feeling great), but one of these days, when your funeral is over and family and friends are back at the church eating fried chicken, potato salad and German chocolate cake. What will they talk about?

He was funny. He talked a good game. He was rather arrogant and self-obsessed; after all who writes a blog 'all ABOUT me' other than the Pioneer Woman and young, hipster women who post pictures of their cats and their food?

Worse yet, what if the only thing they talk about is how good the chicken is?

So, what would I want people to say? I've given that some thought. It's a work in progress, but so far I have this: He was funny. He loved his family and they knew it. He spoiled his grand-girls so rotten they now all have blogs with huge followings, where they post a lot of selfies. And, he was a trail-blazer.

My inspiration for this new vision is this line from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

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

Let me say right now, I love the sentiment in this, but I have a few issues with Ralph's rhetoric. More on that in the next post.

To be continued...