As a child I was a member of a denomination sponsored youth group called the Pathfinders. Now I could scour the great outdoors and all that other exciting stuff that Pathfinders did. When I got in, I was all in. I was a rough and tumble Pathfinder incarnate.
But did I really know what it meant from an organizational point of view or was I focused on what it meant to me. The point of pathfinders for the organization, I’ve since discovered, was to introduce youth to Jesus Christ; to build mind, body, and spirit in order to be able to carry out the work of the church and bring others to the feet of Jesus. I’m sure that particular cause was noble and just, but it wasn’t mine. I wanted the adventure, the adrenaline rush of the challenge of rolling in the deep with the natural world and] making my way. My heroes in the Pathfinder mindset were men like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Grizzly Adams, Matthew Henson, Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins, and any scout in a western movie. When I wasn’t outdoors, you could often find me face deep in any book by Jack London, Jim Kjelgaard, or Edgar Rice Burrows. I was all about fully living in the face of the challenge of the natural world. There was no manufactured path for these men, only the raw space in which they blazed trails against the odds. That was the place in the church where I knew I could fit. That’s why I joined the Pathfinders.
Fast forward, I am still a pathfinder in my sense of the word. The organization made a profound impact on me. The structure, the challenges of learning skills beyond my neighborhood streets, and of course the campouts and outdoor life shaped the part of me my spirit was seeking to hone. It showed me that there is always a path present, even before one sees it in the physical world. Your path is mapped in your spirit first, then your mind lays it out. Your body follows. It’s like that in any endeavor in which you set your intent to do. Especially when that doing is unclear in terms of a set path. For example, when I received my Master’s degree in education, I knew I had only to pass the praxis to get certified, apply for a position, get the job and begin work as an educator. The path was pretty cut and dry. I’m not at all implying that teaching is a simple undertaking, but the steps to get there are laid out systematically.
To be an artist, one that lives and eats by what comes from their hearts and hands, is another story. It’s the trailblazing banshee of a scout type mentality that eats by the edge of the blade, the blast of muzzle fire, and the sheer will of making ones way. I am often asked how to get there. My only honest response is there is no set path. It’s different for every person who sets out to do their curiosity’s bidding. You just have to set out and go. Make your art, do your thing, set and know your intent, and put it to the world in a faith and action beyond hoping. It becomes systematic in the discovery and formulation of what works by being honest with yourself. Realize and claim your story, unapologetically. That points you purposefully along your way. It’s a matter of heart over hardware. That truth of who you are, what you uniquely have to offer, and how, is what will connect you to your audience. When you can make and commit to that decision you will find your path.