Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Pathway II: A Profoundly Deep and Unending Spiral
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Chen-tao / True Guide, 2011
THE BEDOUIN, looking at the monolithic-appearing Negev Desert, see something most others may not see. There, on a hillside, the glistening trails of gazelle. These trails might be at least as old as the gazelle species itself. And so, it is said, “The trails are wiser than their travelers.” The trails are models of efficiency—of shortcuts—as well as access to resources.
Similarly, in their “walkabouts,” Australian Aborigines retrace the journeys taken by the first animals following their creation—“songlines.” In The Songlines [NY; Viking, 1987], Bruce Chatwin writes,
The Ancients sang their way all over the world. They sang the rivers
and ranges, salt-pans and sand dunes. They hunted, ate, made love, danced, killed; wherever their tracks led they left a trail of music.
They wrapped the whole word in a web of song…
Looking more broadly at human life, Chatwin continues,
I have a vision of the Songlines, stretching across the continents and ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song (of which we may now and then catch an echo); and that these trails much reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African savannah, where the First Man opening his mouth in defiance of the terrors that surround him, shouted the first opening stanza of the World Song, ‘I am!’ 
Like human and animal and plant migration, the pathways of body-mind wind deeply back, not only back into the development of specific societies, but also back even further to the larger cultural complexes of vast geographic regions that are evidenced by shared root words. These base root words, in turn, find their origins as expressions of the encompassing physical and biotic landscapes—the actions of flora and fauna, and waters and winds and mountains and seasonal cycles and the turnings of stars.
And the pathway of our steps taken in this present moment falls into the future as a continuation of this deep history and prehistory.
The pathway is wiser than the sojourner, incapable of being surpassed or subsumed. The art of body-mind practices is the journey on these pathways, finding them, moving forward and creating within their parameters—spiraling, ascending and descending and roller coasting through time, rather than circling or simply repeating.
In The Beauty Of Gesture: The Invisible Keyboard of Piano & T’ai Chi [Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1996], Catherine David writes both of the wisdom and the unending dynamics of pathways, as expressed in the metaphor of ascending—spiraling—around a mountain:
The path toward the mountain of t’ai chi ch’uan is long and mysterious, its curves shrouded by the future. As one ascends, the landscape evolves, becomes vast and clear. Lights and colors, glimpses of the infinite, unexpected jolts. The distance grows near; the difficult becomes simple; what seemed easy turns out to be problematic. But the path winds on, and again, the obvious is turned upside down, the questions change. 
In The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through The Universe [NY: Walker & Company, 2003], Chet Raymo writes,
Any path can become the Path if attended to with care, without preconceptions, informed by knowledge, and open to surprise.