Finding One’s Own Path

In The Quest of the Holy Grail the story is told of how King Arthur and his knights were seated at the Round Table when, to their amazement, the Holy Grail appeared, covered by a cloth and carried by angels.

When the vision of the Chalice withdrew King Arthur’s nephew, Sir Gawain, stood up and said, ‘I propose that we should all vow to go in pursuit of the Grail to behold it unveiled.’

We then read how the knights felt it would be cowardly to go as a group, so ‘each entered the forest that he had chosen where there was no path and where it was darkest’.

And so it is for us. Though often in life there appears to be no path and the way seems very dark, that is the way one must go. Each of us has to set out on his or her journey alone – comforted perhaps by the knowledge that on the way we may encounter others travelling in the same direction.

I have been reflecting much on this because of a recent visit to Salisbury where I directed a production of 84 Charing Cross Road and stayed in a cottage owned by the former stage designer of the Salisbury Theatre. He told me how he had been a designer for some years when one day, seated on a hill, he thought, ‘Do I want to go on churning out a new set every three weeks for the rest of my life?’ and then into his head came the word ‘Soil’. At that moment he resigned from his post at the theatre and became a jobbing gardener, cycling to work and tending some twenty or more gardens, earning a modest amount each week. He is one of the most contented and happy people I have ever met, simply because, to use the famous phrase of Joseph Campbell, he has been able to ‘follow his bliss’.

At the end of one’s life it is not a question of how successful or wealthy I may have become, but did I become the person I was meant to be? So many young people are pressured by parents to play safe, to become a lawyer, an accountant, a dentist, when all that they really want to be, and know they should be, is, perhaps, a jobbing gardener!

2 thoughts on “Finding One’s Own Path”

  1. James,
    First, while having read your autobiography, I’d like to know more, for right now, your response to “did I become the person I was meant to be?” It helps me on my path.
    Me?, I am nearer the end of my life than the beginning, so I can concur that making one’s path has been the way for me as I look back, and I’m so grateful for it. It was forced on me for the most part, some stubbornness in me to figure out what had seemed to be missing, circumstances of family and life that left me out there to find a way alone. By these, I seemed to have no choice but enter where there was no path. And truth is, I didn’t even know there was a veiled grail that I had the right to pursue. I followed an impulse my stubbornness wouldn’t let go of. That drove me on blind to what I was doing, seemingly doing it with little rational thought. An original study leave became an experiential journey as the missing piece, my question, kept morphing always just out of reach. it was unrecognized by me how all the seemingly blind steps clearly led me to the grail I didn’t know existed, not until I got there. At 58. And in a moment, when I would least expect something so wonderful, in fact standing in a campsite washroom first thing in the morning, washing up and heading out, and there the grail appeared, and made sense of the whole journey, over the next year becoming clearer, that just being Reg as I am, was the grail. And so the endpoint wasn’t so much did I become the person I was meant to be, respective of work and lifework. The endpoint at 58, to have put my head out of the pit and for the first time recognize the pit I was in, was to let me be me. At my age, while I haven’t admitted to it entirely, I know from my night dreaming, that I don’t have the time to do or work as I would have were I now 30. Even so, at 30 I was asking the question at least. And while it took a lifetime to get to the beginning point I was ready for at 30, yet the fact I was on the path, even forced to it, is all I need to feel that life was worthwhile. Not having the chance to do the work I would want to do, out of reach for so long, well, maybe like wealth and success is an illusion. What else can I say? So I’m not depressed that life is soon over, I allow the path and being on the path, being in the forest, is enough for my bliss. Don’t need anything else. And I am grateful to the muse, if only the inner me crying out, that kept me on the path, each morning awakening to embrace the day for what it brings. I like the analogy of a path because the beauty I see before me is the forest, dark and vast. Mine is a narrow way in. I can’t know the forest but for what small bit is before me. But I know the forest is there. I am in it. And any way in, for how ever long it has taken, means I have been in the forest and of the forest, and the forest is my home. I am the forest. Such is my bliss. There in the forest, with you James on your path, and as I’ve written before, our paths crossed some time ago, and that crossing was a seminal moment in my journey, opened me up so much to my path. So while grateful for what the journey gave me, I’m content for having been on this path and for you being on your path, a fellow pilgrim on the way, sharing with you ordination and theatre. And you now? To hear more from you about yourself is good for me.

  2. DEAR JAMES,
    don’t know if this will reach you, but if it does, after 38 years i just wanted to let you know i continue to think about you, now and then and cherish the time i spent with you long long ago. i still have the book you gave me. my road to ithica has been long and hard. i am turning 60 8 years ago i had a stroke which left me 50% paralyzed, but my brain in tact, thank god. over the years i continued studying theater, more as a director than an actor. my dearest friend and i moved to nyc, forming an off-off ensemble company. then we switched over to doing films quite sucessfully, i did 15 in many capacities. while living and working there, you were down the street directing “84 charing cross road. i regret not finding you or attending. i found out too late. i saw the film and at the end cried. a friend and classmate, tony todd was in it as the super. was great seeing him. currently, i have been trying to get my life together, against my disabilities. perhaps it is premature but working on autobiography. it’s been a full life, done everything, good and bad. i have to apologize being a poor student when i met with you in 1978. i never told you but, weeks before i came my father had died, and i was not in a good frame of mind, and at the start of a 31 year of alcoholism. and 5 attempts at suicide soon after my stroke. God spoke to me after the last attempt, and straightened me out. ever since then i have hd nothing but blessings. i was in a nursing home for 4 years then able to move to group home. at the nursing home i met a man, scott who became the love of my life. he was terminally ill but we loved each other his family interfered when we wanted to hsve a commitment ceremony, but they legally madeit impossible to ever see or communicate with him again. i was with hime everyday for 3.5 years then this. i have never been so broken hearted. i no longer know whether he is alive or dead. well that’s my life in a nutshell.
    XOXO
    JEFF GAGE

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