By Jim Peterson
Each step taken on
Life’s journey is, already,
“... each step is the destination.” Someone recently shared this piece of paradoxical wisdom with me. I was struck by how this paradox shimmered for me; whenever I encounter such a paradox, I suspect the Spirit’s wisdom is lurking underneath. What is the deep truth beneath this paradox?
I remember a hike I once took on the island of Iona; a small hill bordered the road I was walking and a path lead up the slope, so I decided to climb to the top – my destination. But when I arrived at the summit, an easy climb, I discovered that this first summit had hidden another, higher, one just beyond. So, I kept climbing to my new destination, only to find that this summit too hid an even higher one. And so I was led on once again. Eventually, after one or two additional summits revealed themselves, I did reach the highest point. Looking back, what was my “destination” after all? At each mini-summit I paused and gazed at the beauty of the immediate surroundings, at the distant vistas of the abbey, farm buildings, sea and sky, and at the neighboring islands. And each time I was blessed. Yes, the vista expanded with each subsequent summit, but each mini-summit had become a destination in itself.
In ordinary life, to be on a journey seems to demand a particular destination, an end, a stopping place where we say, “I’ve arrived at last!” Yet the wisdom of seasoned travelers tells us that the journey itself is the point. The “goal” is to be ever open to the new that unfolds as we travel and to be changed by it.
Yet the true journey is not a random sequence of places visited willy-nilly. There is an orientation of some sort -- a way of travel that guides our steps. We do not simply go through a series of places but allow the places to go through us that we might be touched, and touch those we encounter in return.
In a faith perspective, Love is this orientation, I believe. In life, we journey to give and receive Love, to be in compassionate relationships, in connection with all we encounter on our journey — persons, creatures, situations and circumstances, indeed all of creation. To travel in Love also implies the accompaniment of an “other,” One who dwells in us as we dwell in them. We do not travel alone, and we have a guide.
The Celtic “peregrines” were known to wander until they found their “place of resurrection” – and then they stayed. But this need not necessarily be a physical place (though for many, like Columba on the island of Iona, it was). It is more fully an orientation to Love, to letting go of living under the command of a self-oriented and self-protecting ego.
So, each step taken under the guidance of that orientation to Love is indeed a destination, the destination!