While cruising to Omaha on the smooth two-lane highway, I decided to listen to a vintage Kraftwerk song. In my opinion, there has never been a better song for driving than “Autobahn”–the long version. The road, the lovely weather, and the music all together, created an optimal yet blissful cruising experience.
Then I rounded a slow curve only to see signs warning of a construction zone ahead. I clicked off the cruise control then downshifted to fourth gear in order to ease into the posted lower speed limit. This was mildly annoying, but understandable because having smooth roads, requires people and equipment to construct them.
I soon arrived at the line of parked vehicles stopped by a flag-man who was controlling traffic access to the single lane detour around the construction zone. While waiting, I switched the music off and opened a window in order to experience the quiet of the surrounding countryside. After perhaps ten-minutes, oncoming traffic, for which we had been waiting, began moving through the road, so I closed the window knowing that our line would soon be travelling over the detour route.
The matter of waiting at the beginning of a narrow road so as to allow other vehicles to pass is just one of those necessary things drivers may encounter as we go about the business of driving our vehicles. Although we may feel inconvenienced, we can take advantage of the wait by stretching, taking a drink of water, and observing one’s surroundings. The narrow road is just another stretch of highway that goes to our destination.
We know that the narrow road or the narrow path is used as a metaphor to represent our efforts in other categories of life. Various belief systems and religions preach that following the narrow path is a way to salvation or to achieving enlightenment. There are many homilies, sermons, and Dharma talks that have mentioned the proverbial narrow road.
“The narrow path had opened up suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.”–J.K. Rowling
The longest single-lane road I’ve ever driven was in a Provincial Mountain Park in Alberta, Canada in the summer of 1971. It was a well-maintained road covered with limestone gravel. This was not an ideal driving surface, so low speeds were necessary for safe driving. Also, there were very few turn-outs, along the one-lane road. My brother Mark, who was not yet old enough to drive, worried about the possible problem of meeting vehicles going the other direction. I told him that one or the other vehicle would have to back up to one of the slightly wider parts of the road. This was a scenario we wholeheartedly wished to avoid.
Finally, after what must have been around 15-miles the road ended at the entrance of a small campground area. It was a clearing near the top of a mountain, surrounded on all sides by pine trees. There were only basic, primitive provisions for visitors to the camp. We placed money for the posted fees inside of a locked drop-box, then began to settle in for the night.
We brought out dad’s old Army tent to set up shelter, but the ground was hard as concrete–the tent stakes could not be driven in. Mark suggested that we put the tent back into the trunk and just sleep on the ground in our sleeping bags. The sky was clear, so there would be no concerns about rain.
After a light supper of canned supermarket food, Mark and I crawled into our sleeping bags and took in the majestic view of the cloudless, night sky. The stars were so brilliant, we didn’t need artificial light. Just as I was drifting into sleep, a loud crashing sound came from the forest. I awakened Mark and ordered him into the car. I did not want us to be victims of a bear attack.
Somehow, we managed to drift into sleep. (I do not recommend trying to sleep inside of a sporty Chevy Camaro if there are two or more people in your party.) The next morning, we crawled out of the car and stretched our kinked up, painful backs to a semblance of comfort. After breakfast, we explored the small park with a pleasant stroll on a short hiking trail. I don’t remember much else about the park visit other than we had to drive back down the long, narrow limestone covered road in order to reach civilization again. We did not encounter any other traffic.
It is at this point in short writings about narrow roads and paths that most speakers and writers would issue some sort of pithy wisdom. I won’t offer any religious or spiritual words because you’ve probably heard and read plenty of them already. All I can say is that sometimes one traverses a narrow road and must be prepared to stop and allow other people to pass through. While paused, a person can take time to be mindful and enjoy one’s surroundings for a little while. This will make life more pleasant and yield a little bit of happiness and peace.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes educator, scholar, and member of the leadership of the L.D.S. Church, Neal A. Maxwell. “When great individuals move so marvelously along the straight and narrow path, it is unseemly of us to call attention to the fact that one of their shoelaces is untied as they make the journey.”