Following the Path That is No Path

Aug 4, 2014 / Photography / joseph campbell / mythology / image meaning

The nights of the King Arthur’s court were seated at a table and Arthur would not let the meal be served until an adventure had occurred. And, indeed, an adventure did occur. The Grail itself appeared, carried by angelic miracle, covered, however, by a cloth. Everyone was in rapture and then it withdrew.

Arthur’s nephew Gawain stood up and said, ‘I propose a vow. I propose that we should all go in pursuit of this Grail to behold it unveiled’…And it was determined that that was what they would do…Each entered the forest that he had chosen where there was no path and where it was darkest.”

p73, An Open Life) by Joseph Campbell

Time and time again, we see that in order to find something worthwhile, we have to set out and choose a path, our own path as opposed to the path set out by our parents, by society, by our friends. We have to enter the forest where there is no path and where it is darkest.

I love this idea of the forest and a path, and in a A Million Suns, I created Forest Grove that had this idea of a forest and a path.

man entering a deep dark forest and there is no path
Forest Grove, 2014Cyanotype Print with Digital Drawing. 8.3” x 17”. LImited Edition of 12.

It’s a cliche of course. There are tons of works that touch on the forest and a path.

Consider the following:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

Robert Frost

But what if your fire is not burning well or, worse, has gone out? Without inner fire, you have no light, no heat, no desire… there’s only one way out - and that’s through the dark woods. You must change your life.

Phil Cousineau

And I love this one, from Dante’s Commedia and Gustave Dore’s illustration:

I’m sure you can find other examples.What interests me about this is how persistent this metaphor is of the forest and the path. And yet, how is it that we don’t do this? Instead, we follow the tried-and-true path, a path that may not be our own true calling. Case in point, when I graduated from my MFA just two months ago, I had a very clear idea of where I wanted to go (I want to publish a photonovel by 2017). But over the past two months, I’ve started to hedge on that vision, convincing myself that it is not a good idea, it’s a bad idea, it’s too egotistical, it’s too ambitious, it’s this, and it’s that. Two months! Resistance has reared its ugly head. I do believe in following the path that is no path. I really do. But I know it will be a constant internal battle–to not turn back and head back home.

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