In the course of life, some of us make detours, whether intentional or accidental, that lead to a more difficult path or a dead-end. One detour that I have taken, due to what now appears to be a faulty map of life, has led to a rather dark and dreary place, which may be understood as a ditch or rut.
A growing restless and disillusionment while in that space led to a search for a place to be able to climb out of that ditch. Perhaps I’m still in the ditch, but have now begun to see what is outside the ditch, which is where I want to be. This is an account of my observations of those who have fallen into the ditch with me and may not yet see there is a way out of this dark and confining place.
As we begin life, we are handed a map that is intended to show us the best way to navigate through or around the obstacles and pitfalls that we all might encounter. However, some of us are given a map of life that is inaccurate or incomplete and does not give the best route to find fullness and success in this material realm. I have been revising and updating my life map due to personal encounters with obstructions and traps that were not identified on the original map of life that I was using. Much of my life has been spent in a ditch that I fell (or was pushed) into early in life without realizing where I was. Since my perspective has been altered by seeing only the grays and browns of the mud and detritus in this particular ditch for most of my life, it is still difficult to comprehend that there exists a path outside the ditch which is much brighter and smoother than the way my life journey has been experienced.
Looking around, there are many others who have fallen into this same ditch, or other ditches, that have entrapped us or blinded us to the possibility of other and better ways of living. This group will be referred to as the “ditch dwellers”. Let me describe the perspective that many in this ditch have developed and why it seems subjectively very different from the perspective of those outside the ditch.
We all began life in a place that was chosen for us and not a place we might have chosen ourselves. The starting point and direction we were already headed at birth has a tremendous effect on who we become and how we make choices later in life. Here are some conditions at birth that tend to point us in a particular direction early on.
Some have been born in the bottom of the ditch and have known no other way of living. These often have the hardest way of living later on and are likely to have a very difficult time finding a way out of the ditch. Statistically, a most in this group will stay in the ditch most of their lives, not knowing about any alternative.
Some were born in a shallow part of the ditch and had a glimpse of life outside the ditch before they continued toward the bottom of the ditch without recognizing there was another direction they might have taken. This probably describes my early experiences. This group has a greater chance of finding some way out of the ditch since they have seen an alternative and keep up some hope that something better is a possibility.
Others have had the good fortune to be born outside the ditch, already on a well-lit path with an accurate map of life and others to guide them along the way. This group has never experienced life in the ditches and might not even know about the ditches or those who were born there. They proceed along the path in the direction their caregivers and life advisors had set for them. These will be called path dwellers.
But those path dwellers who are generally good-hearted and willing to help someone out of the ditch may not know how to do so. They are also likely to have been told by their support group members that they should not venture near the ditch to aid anyone who wants to get out, lest they also fall into the ditch. Therefore if they hear the cries for help from those in the ditch, they will be inclined to avoid the ditch, even when their heart may feel compassion for those in the ditch. But occasionally there are some brave and compassionate path dwellers who walk to the ditch to look in, and seeing those in need, go get a rope or ladder they let down to help those ditch dwellers who want help to climb out of the ditch.
When the ditch dwellers see that others have gotten out of the ditch, some might begin to have some hope that they might also find a way out. However many born in the ditch might not recognize a way out even if they see one. They might have been told by other ditch dwellers that climbing out of the ditch is impossible, since they have never seen anyone do it. These pessimistic folks may have given up any hope of finding a way out and have perpetuated the myth that being born in a ditch means that they must also die there. Those who accept this myth are very unlikely to climb out, even when given the means to do so.
This hopelessness and helplessness might even be encouraged by some of those path dwellers who have malicious intentions. In some instances, as someone is climbing out of the ditch on a ladder that was left for them, someone else who is a path dweller kicks them the off the ladder and then pulls out the ladder so that no one else will be able to climb out of the ditch that way. Path dwellers of this type also shout down to the ditch dwellers that they don’t deserve to get out of the ditch and that they were in the ditch because that is what they deserve.
The ditch dwellers who witness the climber get kicked back into the ditch may start to believe the lies of the path dwellers who want them to stay in the ditch. After many events like this, the ditch dwellers develop lore and legend which says they cannot get out of the ditch and are foolish for hoping or trying to find a way out. Thus, there arises not only the barrier of the ditch itself, but a psychological constraint against finding a path upward.
These differences between path dwellers and ditch dwellers have probably existed since the beginning of human civilizations. Many religious belief systems and spiritual development paths have recognized this unfortunate situation and have made many attempts throughout our history to help all ditch dwellers get out of the ditches. Many of these efforts have been successful, at least for a time. Yet it seems there are always some who wander off the path and fall into a ditch. Others are cast into the ditch as an act of malice by others. Some would seem to dig their own ditch for some sad reason.
Does this tendency for some to keep falling (or being pushed) into a ditch mean that it is inevitable that there will always be ditch dwellers? Is it a valid belief that since there have been some ditch dwellers for as long as we have recorded history that this is a condition that will never be corrected? If so, why?
With a little thought, we can see there are means to avoid this condition and break this cycle. We could put up barriers around the ditches to keep anyone from falling in accidentally. Better yet, we could collectively commit to filling in all the ditches we find so that no one will fall into a ditch again. If anyone tries to dig their own ditch, we can train everyone how to identify these sad souls and help them move onto a better path.
Upon reflection, it seems to me that ditch dwelling is not an inevitable and necessary human condition. But it may seem that way until there is a collective decision by humanity that this condition is unacceptable for anyone and needs to be corrected. I pray that we will make that decision within my lifetime.