If life is a journey, then each of us is a lonesome traveler. Not that we travel alone from start to finish, but that our path is distinctly our own. No one else starts at the same exact point as we do, no one else ends at the same point as we do. No one else takes the same turns, U-turns, detours, and wrong turns. But at every point, though, our path overlaps and intersects with others’. We meet other travelers on the way, some going the same way, some going other ways. Sometimes we get to travel together with people for a long period of time. Naturally these people would be going in the same direction as we do.
At those intersections or overlapping lines, there’s this thing called influence that we exert upon each other. In one way or another, we wouldn’t be the same again after those interactions. Some may even influence the next steps and turns that we would take, whether we are conscious of it or not.
What’s more fascinating is that there are travelers whose paths we never intersect, yet the twists and turns in their paths greatly influence ours. These people may live in a different time and place than us. Great historical characters who lived inspiring lives are prime examples of this group of people.
What got me thinking recently, however, are not these obviously influential people who are far away from me. I thought about the people who are closer, whose stories I assumed I know but in reality, I actually don’t. I was thinking specifically about my parents. We are much attached to our parents, of course, and we know them well. Yet, although our paths overlap very closely for a very long amount of time, when I start to think about what they have gone through in their lives, I realize that I have no idea what it is like to walk on their paths. They too once were like me, being in my age, making decisions as I do. What thoughts did they have then? The persons that they became of course were in turn, influenced by their parents, my grandparents.
My father used to tell his kids stories about his younger years. I wouldn’t get tired of him telling the same stories over and over again. He would tell us what his family was like, what he did when he was in his twenties, how he left his hometown to go to Jakarta with very little money to make something out of himself. He made crazy, risky, and bold decisions that turned out to be right, and he made some others that turned out to be wrong. Life was rough and definitely not smooth-sailing. At times he came across scams and people who tricked him, and in the end he would just have to take the hit. When I was little, though, hearing these stories over dinner, I would always have this surreal feeling – I can’t believe the person who’s telling the story and the person whose story is being told is the same person. But yet it is.
As I grew older, certain parts of the stories were explained in more details and I got a clearer picture of my family history and heritage, some related to the historical context of the country. It gave me more insights to understand the person-hood of my father more, and how those things could influence him. Yet even with all of this combined, I still don’t know what it means to experience all the things that he did. To extend it even further, he would tell me stories of my grandfather whom I never met, and they would sound like stories in a history book – distant and grand. My grandfather’s path influenced my father’s path, which in turn influences mine. And you can just keep going.
This is simply what happens in life, and it’s quite amusing just being marveled by the way things are. The web of humanity – there is not one person on earth who knows how we all are interconnected. Things like Facebook give us a snapshot of how intricate the part of the web that we’re in is, but it’s still not the full story. I long for that day (or the thousand years) when we will at last know and have all of these explained to us.