A Path with a Heart

Our descriptions of reality are necessarily based on our perception of reality. But our descriptions are not what reality is because what we can perceive given our limited faculties cannot be comprehensive or even undistorted. The world appears magical but magic does not explain the world, if and when we do attempt to explain the world. Myriad explanations have been advanced. Each points to a limited aspect of that which lies beneath it all. Looking from each of those varied viewpoints and somehow integrating them may help us approach a better appreciation of reality.

Decades ago during my engineering undergraduate days, I had read a few of Carlos Castaneda’s books about a Yaqui shaman named don Juan Matus from Sonora, Mexico. Castenada was an anthropology student at University of California at Los Angeles in the 1960s. He wrote a book The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, and submitted it as his master’s thesis. It was published by the University of California Press in 1968.

I later learned that Casteneda’s claim that don Juan was a real person was questioned and most likely he made up the shaman. In short, his books were not an anthropological study but were fiction. In any case, what the books presented was an alternative aspect of reality that was accessible through magic and psychoactive drugs. In any case, the don Juan series of books is fascinating. Here’s a brief quote from “The Teachings of don Juan”. The speaker is don Juan.

Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

Have you deliberately chosen a path? And does your chosen path have a heart?

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