Desert wisdom

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Desert wisdom

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People often say that life is like climbing a mountain. Until you reach the top, there are all kinds of difficulties and troubles, and the hardest thing can be coming down from the mountain.
Canadian adventurer and consultant Steve Donahue is opposed to this notion. He argues that life is really more like a desert; mountains offer a clear goal, the summit, but deserts are trackless, and people don’t know for sure where to go.
Donahue suggests several ways to cross the desert wisely, based on his experience.
The most important thing is to follow the compass, not the map. Do not cling to the place where you are but be aware of where you are heading. Mountains and maps have something in common ― both have a clear goal and known paths and you can calculate the time to your destination. But unlike mountains, deserts usually don’t have roads. Common sense is not enough and no one knows where a path may lead. Therefore, in a desert it is important to read the compass within yourself and pay heed to your own sense of direction rather than what you see. French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “I stayed up all night reading the map. However, it was useless. I couldn’t find out where I was.”
The advice that one should deflate a tire when caught in sand is very interesting. In the wilderness of the desert, the more you press on the gas to speed up the car, the deeper the car sinks into the sand. A strong ego is important, as is a powerful engine in a car, but when you are in trouble, wisdom dictates letting some air out of the ego. By letting go of past behaviors and beliefs and becoming more humble, you are able to accept the fact that you are not perfect.
Resting once in a while when you come across an oasis is another wise thing to do. Don’t just drink water from the oasis, but rest. Rather than pressing to reach the goal, resting once in a while, restoring your energy and looking both forward and back allows you to work more efficiently. The more you rest, the farther you can get ahead; it’s another wisdom of a desert journey.
The journey of President-elect Lee Myung-bak up until now has been like climbing the mountain. There was a goal that he could see ― the presidency ― and he walked powerfully to reach it. But now that he has reached the top, his journey is more like a desert, full of uncertainty. That is why he needs the wisdom of one crossing the desert. Put more value into the direction (a compass) rather than the present situation (a map); be humble and rest when it’s needed.

The writer is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Hyun-ki [luckyman@joongang.co.kr]
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