This is a story about a boy and his path.
Paulo was a boy who appeared not unlike any other boy in the village of Quilombos.
Quilombos was a village that appeared not unlike any other village in the province.
But, things are not always as they appear.
Since before he could remember, Paulo had lived in the village with his grandfather. Each morning they would wake up with the roosters and the sun. And, each morning Paulo would watch his grandfather take the path out of the cottage, down the lane, across the bridge over the river, and then as he made his way up and over the mountain to work. And, each evening when Grandfather returned the two would sit by the fire and talk about the experiences that Paulo had that day in the village.
This was fine for a while, but as he grew older Paulo’s curiosity grew too. He wanted to know what was beyond the village.
“Grandfather”, said Paulo, “Why do you cross the river and climb the mountain?”
“My work, as is the work of everyone in Quilombos, is on the other side.”
“May go with you tomorrow?”
“No Paulo. No you may not.”
“You do not know the path.”
“Will you show me?”
“No, it takes a long time to learn the way. I am needed on the other side and you are still too small to keep up if I am to make it there on time. But, start walking with me in the morning. My steps will soon outpace yours and I will leave you to explore and learn the path. Walk as far as you can, until the sun is high in the sky then return to the cottage. When we meet again tomorrow evening you will tell me what you saw along your walk up the mountain.”
So, in the morning Paulo and Grandfather started from the valley towards the mountain. Even before they had reached the bridge Grandfather’s broad steps had outpaced Paulo’s. Paulo did not notice that Grandfather was soon too far ahead to catch up. But, it did not matter. He had watched his grandfather before and watched where Grandfather walked and where he did not. Paulo followed the route his grandfather has always taken. At noon Paulo returned back to the village along the path that he had come from. That night his grandfather asked him about the things he saw along the way. Ashamed, Paulo admitted that he could not answer. “I did not see anything. I was simply wanted to make it as far as I could as fast as I could”, said Paulo. His grandfather asked him no more questions that night and only sat quietly by the fire warming his old bones.
The next morning Paulo started out before his grandfather. He took the same path as the day before. But, this time his focus was not on the end of the path—it was on the path itself. Paulo took notice of the flowers and plants, insects and animals, and all of the many things he did not recognize along the way—all of the things along the edges that he was unaware of the day before. That night by the fire grandfather asked Paulo what he saw. As Paulo described these things, his grandfather told him the names of each. Grandfather told him the names of flowers and plants, insects and animals, and all of the many things that he knew from his many days of experience.
Paulo, too, was determined to walk along the path for many days. Each day he noticed more and more of the things that he did not see the day before. Eventually, Paulo wanted to know more than just the names of these things. So every night by the fire Grandfather would tell Paulo stories and chronicles of each.
A time came when Paulo knew the path well and he could reach the summit of the mountain by noon. Often he reached the peak early enough to spend as much time exploring the edges of the path as he spent walking along it. Surely, he now knew the essentials of the path as well as his grandfather. That night he asked his grandfather if he could go over the mountain with him in the morning. “Grandfather, tomorrow I will go with you over the mountain, yes?”
“No, not tomorrow”, said grandfather. “Perhaps someday you will be ready.” Greatly confused, Paulo asked, “Why?” Grandfather explained that he was very proud that Paulo had chosen his path to learn so well. But, there were many great men in the village and they all knew and took different ways and believed theirs to be the best. Perhaps, thought Grandfather, Paulo would prefer one of theirs. Grandfather described for Paulo how for many years each man spent a considerable amount of time tending and developing their path. And, since no one knew whose Paulo’s father was and the path that his father may have taken, that it might be best for Paulo to study them all in order to discover which was best suited for him.
Over the course of many months Paulo spent many days repeating the process of walking a path, learning the names of the flowers and plants, insects and animals, and all of the many things he did not recognize along the way—all of the things along the edges. Paulo learned why they lived where they lived and did what they did and what made them unique to that path. Paulo learned the essentials of each. After many seasons Paulo knew the perennial path of the butcher, the baker, the poet, the potter, the constable, the carpenter, the official, and the farmer. He knew why the butcher took the path that he chose. He chose it because along the way there were morel mushrooms that he used to stuff the roasts and wild rosemary to season them—and that these things could only be found on this one path. The baker’s path took him over the stones that he used for baking his bread on. The potters’s travels took him along the cliffs with the best sources of clay.
Paulo knew that each man had learned the essentials of their unique paths from the men that came before them. Each took the path they took because they needed the things along it. They knew that they needed those things because they were told that if they were to be prepared for their lives, that they must learn the path of their father’s father’s father. “These paths”, Paulo had been told, “had stood the test of time.”
The next morning Grandfather asked Paulo if he wanted to walk along the path with him as he went to work.
“No”, said Paulo.
Grandfather was silent for a long while and then he said, “No? Paulo you know the way.”
“Yes, Grandfather I do know your way.” He meant no disrespect by this and was in fact filled with pride for knowing the way of his grandfather.
Slightly hurt and upset, grandfather did not ask so much as demand, “Whose path will you take then Paulo?” Paulo carefully explained that he had spent a considerable amount of time learning the fundamentals of each path from their caretakers. He also had learned about those things along the edges of those paths that many generations of men have used as they move back and forth along it. “Grandfather, these are fine paths and I know them well. But, now that I know them, I know that they are not mine.”
Grandfather was upset. He knew that Paulo knew each path better than any man from the village ever had, yet he chose to not take any.
Grandfather asked, “How will you cross the mountain if not on one of the paths that our village has used for generations?”
“I will forge my own path. I know the whole of the mountain. I know the flowers that live in the forest, I know the plants that live in the crags, I know insects that live at the peak, and the animals that live in the valley. But, Grandfather what is more important is that I have seen where those things meet. And, I have made my own paths to where the edges overlap.”
Paulo was never happy staying along the edges, he was a curious boy. He ventured far and wide as he became more and more familiar with the routes up the mountain. Often he would cross many different paths over the course of his daily meanderings. Soon he understood each individual path better, because he had seen the whole of the mountain. Paulo knew the basics of each path so well he was able to move back and forth between them. He had made intersections and connections, even though he often had tripped and stumbled, as he experienced the unknown edges.
As he explained this to his grandfather, Grandfather began to realize that even though Paulo knew the perennial paths so well, he would not take any of them. He began to understand that Paulo would not claim any of these as his own. “How will you know where you are going Paulo if you don’t take any of these paths?” His discomfort was not eased when Paulo explained that his path may never cross the mountain.
Paulo knew the path of the butcher, the baker, the poet, the potter, the constable, the carpenter, the official, and the farmer. Paulo knew what each man found and used along each path. Paulo had grown to cherish each path and had a very great respect for each man’s knowledge. Above all, however, Paulo cherished gaining that knowledge of the things that neither he nor they knew anything of. What he did know was that there were many wonderful things on this side of the mountain. Most villagers would never know those things because they never saw beyond the edges of the path.
“Grandfather, I have taken many walks up the mountain. These walks have created new paths and they lead to my work. And, that work is on this side of the mountain. There will always be butchers, bakers, poets, potters, constables, carpenters, officials, and farmers to go to the other side. I will teach them the paths if that is all that they choose.
“But, Grandfather, I know more than one way from our valley to the summit. My true work will be to show, those who are willing, the mountain for all that it is. If it means forging new paths, I will guide them. I will guide those, who not only do not know their paths, but those who have been denied paths. Men and women—white, black, pardo, I will lead them all. And, eventually, Grandfather, a day will come where these new paths will not take them across the river to climb the mountain—these paths will take them on the river around it.
“The essence of knowledge is the active process of searching for truth. Finding truth that is relevant to oneself is found through enlightenment and understanding of all truths; truth is found by undertaking a quest for the blurred places where disparate truths meet; truth is found by searching for clarity among those blurred places to form one’s own truths and reality. The essence of knowledge is not what is sought; the essence of knowledge is seeking for it.”