Fika (Fee-ka) is a Swedish word describing a mid-morning or mid-afternoon break in the day. It’s also a concept, a state of mind, an attitude. For more on fika, read my introduction here. Grab a cuppa and something sweet and delicious. Even better – do it with someone else. Enjoy the story. Let it be the beginning of a conversation – with someone else, or yourself. Head over to my website and leave a comment if you want to. Enjoy.
Here’s a lovely metaphor that feels particularly apt at this point in my life.
“The Path” by Rachel Naomi Remen
When I was remodeling my home, I was torn between two ways of creating access to my front door. One way involved building a flight of steps from the street that opened onto a path leading directly to my door. From the moment you set foot on the first step, you could see the front door, and know exactly where you were going.
The other way was quite different. You come through a gate, and climb a short flight of steps to a small landing. Just beyond this landing is a tree of great beauty. As you climb, all you can see is this tree. When you reach the landing, you discover it joins a small deck bordered by a rose garden, and passing through this find another flight of steps, quite steep, leading off to the right. The top step is well above your eye level, and climbing, you see nothing until you reach a deck at the top, where looking to your right you discover a breathtaking 60-mile view of San Francisco Bay. Crossing this deck brings you to three gradual steps leading off to the left. Climbing these you unexpectedly find the little meadow, which is my backyard, and rising from it, the exquisite profile of Mount Tamalpais, the highest mountain in our county. Only then can you see my front door, which is now only a few steps away. You have been moving toward it steadily, without knowing, all along.
In struggling to make this decision I consulted two architects, both of whom told me that one of the basic principles of the architecture of front entrances is that people need to see where they are going from the start. They agreed that the uncertainty of the second approach would create unease in any guest coming to the house for the first time. Despite the uniformity of this expert advice, I ultimately chose the second way.
Thinking about it now, it seems to me that knowing where we are going encourages us to stop seeing and hearing and allows us to fall asleep. In fact, when I find myself on such a direct path, a part of me rushes ahead to the front door from the moment I see it. As I hurry to overtake this part, I usually do not really see anything that I pass.
Not knowing where you are going creates more than uncertainty; it fosters a sense of aliveness, an appreciation of the particulars around you. It wakes you up in much in the same way that illness does. I chose the second way.
In fact, perhaps, we only think we know where we are going as all the while we are really going somewhere quite different. I have done many things in order to achieve a valued goal, only to discover in time that the real goal my choices have led me toward is something else entirely. Something I could not even have known existed when I first set foot upon the path. The purpose underlying life often wears the mask of whatever has our attention at the time. The very reason that we were born, our greatest blessing, or our way to serve may come into our lives looking like a new car, a chance to travel, or a cup of the finest coffee.
The truth is that we are always moving toward mystery and so we are far closer to what is real when we do not see our destination clearly.
When have you been surprised to discover that where you ended up is not where you thought you were going?
What helps you to pay attention to all that lays between “here” and “there”?
This story is published in My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen. Pp288-289. (Riverhead, 2000)
Have a good weekend.
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