The thing about a path in the woods is that if it is a good path, it is a well-worn path. Thousands and thousands of steps over a great many years wear the path down so that it begins to dig a deep indentation in the soil. At first the indentation is slight, but as time goes on, it becomes more pronounced. It becomes a deep groove.
Of course, it is subject to all kinds of weather--glaring sun, torrential downpours of rain, and sheets of solid ice and snow. These weather patterns can alter the way the path looks, but they can only do so temporarily. Once the weather patterns have passed, people resume using the path and it becomes a smooth path once again. Any tree branches or boughs that may fall in the path are removed by people who use the path. If they are too heavy to move, a slight rounding of the path occurs, curving around the problem and then straightening back out on to the path once again. A new groove is then formed, and it becomes a permanent part of the path. The path is malleable.
|This path is about 1.5 feet in depth.|
But just contrast this to a concrete path. How long has it been there? Unless we check city records, we really don’t know how long. We can’t gauge by its deep groove how good a path it is because it has no groove at all. We can’t decide upon its age and how often it is used, thereby gauging its likely worthiness, because it is a hard concrete path that is unaffected by the foot of man.
Who would want to follow a path that does not directly connect to them? What I mean is, a path through the woods is in direct connection with its users. It speaks to them. It moves with them. It shows them the simplest way to walk. It reveals historical events by etching them in its surface. It is in constant communication with the needs of its users, providing them with a sense of sureness and security. And if for any reason people stop using a path in the woods, the path dies. After a short time, it leaves no trace of having ever existed. This is because it is a part of each person who uses it, and its life depends on human interaction.
Contrast that again with the concrete path, which appears almost sterile. It neither speaks to its users, nor does it listen. It does not necessarily follow in the intentions of its users, having been laid out by an agenda quite removed from the ordinary agenda of getting from point A to point B in as simple and pleasant a way as possible. There are no well-worn grooves on the concrete path, nothing to show that people love it, nothing to show familiarity and security. It may be easy to walk upon in terms of smoothness, but it is a hard and unforgiving path.
Who would want to follow a path like that? Who would want to follow a path without familiarity, without signs of the seasons, without flowers and animals that live in conjunction with it? On a concrete path, the mind is not given gentle respite and pleasure, but instead becomes dulled and robotic.
They say, “Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam,” or “a thousand roads lead men forever to Rome.” This means that many paths can lead people to the same goal. The question is, what is the goal? If it is to direct people, manage people, drive people in a certain direction, then a concrete path is perfect for that. Indeed, the Romans were known for their famous roads. One of the first things they did upon conquering a nation was build their famous Roman roads, presumably to make it easier to send troops in to control the populace and also to collect taxes.
But the path in the woods--the well-worn path of the country folk--that path does not lead to Rome. This particular one in the photo, with its deep groove of over a foot in depth, merely leads down to a pleasant spot near the river. There are no ulterior motives, no reason to drive or control people, no hidden agenda. It is simply a pleasant way to get to the river. And why would people want to go to the river? Don’t ask that question in Rome because they won’t know the answer. But if you ask me, I’d say the answer is: “Because it’s there.”