We all know Ralph Waldo Emerson’s saying: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Over the years this quote has become somewhat of a cliché and variations of it have also surfaced.
My personal favourite being Edward Monkton’s description of his chilled-out Zen Dog:
“He knows not where he’s going,
For the ocean will decide,
It’s not the destination,
It’s the glory of the ride”.
Be that as it may, cliché or not, it is difficult to negate the truth this phrase holds.
As we stand on the brink of 2016, many of us survey the past year and wonder at how the end of it has come around so quickly. Inadvertently, most of us think of the journey that has led us to this point in time. And a journey it has definitely been. As we worked our way throughout the year, casually discarding every calendar month, life became populated with a variety of countless experiences. The expedition of life sometimes tough but never dull.
But is the end of the year, those last few seconds we count down with nervous expectation (of what exactly?) really so different than the next few seconds that will await us beyond midnight? Is twelve o’clock on New Year’s Eve seen as a destination? Or does the ride simply continue?
Sometimes the stuff that stays with us is not the so-called culminating moments, of say a New Year’s celebration, but made up of the many joys we encounter on our daily wanderings.
As a child, whenever we were going to take on a long journey (‘die langpad’), my parents used to stock the old Volkswagen station wagon with enough ‘padkos’ to last us for many stops along the way. We would munch on and work our way through home-made sandwiches, boiled eggs and Oros on white, concrete picnic tables and benches high above valleys, on the edge of mountains looking out towards the big African sky that, at times, became part of the ocean – white sand dunes like shifting gods next to the waves singing their praises; other times the sky would fold around the hills of the almost empty landscape; we’d sip on freshly squeezed pineapple juice bought at ‘padstalle’ next to the national road and we’d marvel and laugh at indignant-looking ostriches found along the way and fleet-footed monkeys, baboons and slow tortoises that would cross the roads at varying speeds; at times the car would be stopped in the middle of the flat Karoo desert only to inhale the silence, hoping that that quick stop over will cultivate a garden of inner peace to return to whenever ‘destinations’ ran the risk of becoming too frantic. There we were: flanked by the light green station wagon – it’s roof-rack a sturdy companion above the doors flung open like impractical wings when emptied of its passengers – and the glory the journey had in store for us.
And while my sister and I were trapped in the back of the moving car, our energy a palpable presence and too much for the little space our vehicle provided, we devised games to pass the time: we counted windmills as they kept appearing, like lonely landscape robots, wheeling past the windows from afar; we trained our eyes to read cars’ number plates (while trying to keep motion sickness at bay) and played consecutive number plate spotting; we annoyed each other endlessly. Because in those days there were no gadgets to distract us from the glory of the ride. Only the world whipping past us like an old-fashioned zoetrope.
When I really think about those journeys on all of those national roads crisscrossing the country, I can’t always remember our final stops but the way there (wherever ‘there’ might have been) and the variety of stop offs along the way still flash over the screen of my memory.
Like every single moment, caught on the many pages of a flipbook, the recollections of the past 365 days that made up 2016 will whiz along one after the other in our mind’s eye on this day of the Year Almost Past.
And as the Old Year bring us to a so-called ‘new destination’, the beginning of 2017, may our resolution (yes, perhaps we need only one in order to make all the others possible) be to truly enjoy the rest of the journey, put down the gadgets as much as possible and feast our senses on and be part of the plentiful scenes that will surround us as the jaunt continues.