We now have in place all the major elements of your culture’s explanation of how things came to be this way. The world was given to man to turn into a paradise, but he’s always screwed it up, because he’s fundamentally flawed. He might be able to do something about this if he knew how he ought to live, but he doesn’t – and he never will, because no knowledge about that is obtainable. So, however hard man might labor to turn the world into a paradise, he’s probably just going to go on screwing it up. (89)
Despite the sexist language, i think there’s a lot to his hypotheses. We act as if we rule the world, as if it belongs to us and can be exploited for our benefit. And “human nature” prevents us from being any other way.
Now, what does this have to do with a journey and a path? Well, if our life is a journey, we trust that somehow it’ll turn out okay. We let ourselves go and enjoy what life presents us. Sure, we might do some work so that we have more of what we enjoy in our lives but mostly, we see life as something that can be enjoyed along the way. If life is a path toward a goal, we are not happy until we reach that goal. We have to control our lives so that we can make sure that we stay on the path and not wander off it if something peaks our interest (as a journey allows us to do). It is stressful and we’re not likely to really reach the goal because life is unfair and we’re fundamentally flawed. Most importantly, though, the attitudes underlying the two approaches to life reflect what Quinn observed in the stories of our culture and the cultures of peoples who live more in harmony with nature (as brutal as it sometimes is). If we see life as a journey, we can relax into it, let go of wanting to control the outcome but instead enjoy the process. If we see life as a path to a goal, we have to control it, we have to push away those who could keep us from reaching our goal. It feels like a much more stressful approach to life. Sure, we might not “achieve” much if we see life as a journey but what does achievement mean in this context anyways? It means to have 100% control over your life – something that is utterly impossible. So, you basically set yourself up for failure from the get-go, which is then reflected in the idea that there is something wrong with ourselves.
Our cultural messages are clear: We need to control our lives, nature, the world. Since we really can’t, there must be something wrong with us. What depressing messages! No wonder so many of us struggle with mental illnesses… And this applies to my transition as well. I no longer have a goal of getting a “good job.” I don’t know exactly how i will earn enough money to support myself. I am learning to live with this uncertainty and trusting that i will figure out a way. I know that i am sowing the seeds for it even though i don’t know exactly yet when something will sprout, or even what will sprout. I relax into the journey, realizing that taking it is itself very rewarding. And i understand now why this can be so nerve-racking. As Quinn explains in My Ishmael, our culture is built on locking away the food. Instead of wandering around in nature’s bounty to find something to eat, we now have to work to earn money to buy our food, which has been trucked or flown in. In the process, we destroyed most of nature and can no longer rely on what’s growing around us because that’s likely not edible. If we want to survive, we better earn money. This does not fit well with being on a journey where we don’t know how we will earn money.