Where is the path? –
Give it your all! Then it will be easy.
Of the two great principles, some see only the one: that there must be change. They live solely in this impulse to change, as if it were the first and only and most perfecting principle, and they rise and fall with it: that is the simplicity of youth.
Others, in contrast, see a chain of innumerable changes that have already occurred and through it all they see the immutable. They believe, in the end, that the will to change is vanity: that is the simplicity of age.
But strength of spirit lies between these two and partakes of each. For human greatness – that is, spiritual greatness – is essentially founded on the number two. The wise man sees all that has not changed since the time of Heraclitus and will never change (this includes most of the world), but he also knows that strength of spirit is impossible without the will to change the world for the better. And he recognizes in the meeting of these two principles – of our mutability and the world’s immutability – something that is inexpressible but unites all great spirits across all borders.
This is perhaps the most decisive turn in life (some learn this too late, others never; Heinrich von Kleist died from having never achieved it); the turn from aiming at summits in one’s youth to the confident knowledge that no genuine effort remains fruitless.
For youth lives in the conviction that only conquering summits has value (and only the highest summits at that; as if there were a highest one!). As a result, when they do not conquer summits they lose faith in their steps.
On the mystical nature of every serious human effort: the path is not straight, as the young believe; the reward (the path’s goal) cannot be seen: we do not see the summit it is meant to lead to, but a banner lures us onto the path or, in the best case, a secondary summit of no significance. – Along the way we find precious stones – or we glimpse the summit that becomes more and more true: our actual summit is the path itself.
The greatest beings are simply those who know paths best.
– Ludwig Hohl, The Notes (tr. Lewis)