The Brush Path

Let us imagine, for a moment, that you are on a deserted island, covered in brush and undergrowth. To get anywhere, you must first make a path. When you first do this, it is hard work. Perhaps you can see your destination, perhaps a little red flag is waving on the other side of the brush, but you cannot reach it. You push, you struggle. Eventually, you reach the other side, and the path is clear.

But there are flags all over the island! On the east side, there is an orange one, and to the south-east, the flag is purple. The most northerly flag is a pleasing shade of lilac. There are so many paths to clear that you leave the red one far behind, and blaze your trails all over the island until you create a network of paths. Exhausted, you sleep.

“Where are my flags?” you cry, for the island has reclaimed your paths, and you must once again battle through the undergrowth to liberate your coloured cloths. The job seems easier this time, owing to the fact that most of the flora has already been cleared once. That lilac flag, however…the path leading up to it is just as hard as it was yesterday!

You continue your work, day after day, because you know that if you stop, the brush will weave over and through your paths and all your work will be undone. After many weeks, every flag can be reached with only slight effort, and your daily tasks are little more than maintenance.

With the exception of that lilac flag.

Why? Why is this flag so damned hard to reach? Could it be the plants on this particular part of the island? Is it the quality of the sun here? The position of the moon? Does it even matter? If you want your flag, you have to clear away the creeping vines. There is nothing else you can do.

Or is there? With some tools, the work can go much faster. You make your own tools, you buy some more. With these tools, you discover many more flags, and you find that your island has grown. Will you bring an expert to your island to help you with your paths, someone who knows the best way to forge them and to connect them with each other? Or will you struggle on alone? The lilac flag is by now the least of your troubles. With your tools and experience, you can clear the path in less than a minute.

But now there are flags on top of mountains, flags locked in the roots of trees, flags in the middle of lakes. Your island has grown into a continent, and someone still has to keep the paths open. These days, you are discovering paths that you forgot about years ago. The traces are still there, but re-opening them takes a bit of work. It doesn’t matter. There are enough paths open that you can navigate the whole island without a problem, even if you have to take a few detours.

And then, after many years, the only thing needed to keep the paths open is to walk them, and enjoy the sunshine. In the distance, twinkling on the surface of the sea, is a very small island.

Perhaps you could build a boat.