SATURDAY, 18 AUGUST 2012
That is the advantage of someone else reading your material for once: they comment on it, which gives you an opportunity to add a thought or two to the original idea.
So it happened that a good friend recently sent me an e-mail about a piece I wrote in 1998 entitled, “Story of two travellers”. The “story” was about one “traveller” at a crossroads, unable to decide what direction to take, who then sits down on a rock near the crossroads – from where he then observes over the next few months (or years) other people making decisions, making mistakes, and generally getting on with their lives, while he continues thinking about what to do. One day another traveller arrives at the crossroads, sits down on his haunches, looks this way and that, sniffs the air, gets up and starts walking, apparently convinced that he is taking the right path. A conversation then follows shortly after between the “walker” and the “sitter”.
Eventually, my opinion was that the guy who had been sitting on the rock for so long had to stop thinking and taking notes, and move his arse. He had to decide on a direction even though he could not be sure how it would work out, and dedicate himself to that path.
My friend had more sympathy, to some extent, with the guy on the rock. She sees him as someone who chooses not to participate until he is sure where he wants to go. She likes his willingness to say: “Wait a minute. I’d like to think about it first.”
When I wrote the text in Korea, in March 1998, I was feeling very frustrated with myself. I had been making plans for months at that stage, and I still had no clue what I was going to do next. I was the guy on the rock, but I wanted to be the other guy – the one who sniffed the air, threw a handful of dirt into the air, and then walked off into the sunset.
My friend suggested that I write a follow-up that will describe what happened later in the “story”. This reminded me of the fact that eight months after I had left Korea, I was back at the crossroads (January 1999), again making myself comfortable on the rock by the side of the road, thinking: “I know where I want to be. I just don’t know what road to take to get there. And I don’t want to waste time by just rushing off in some direction, and possibly realising too late that the road is taking me further away from where I want to be.”
Then I realised: Maybe the rock is my place in the bigger scheme of things. The rock, at the crossroads, is perhaps where I was supposed to end up. Maybe this is where I belong. Maybe I did choose a road, walked it, and it led back to the crossroads. Back to the rock.