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Gustave Doré: Don Quixote amid his fantasies of chivalric romance, the frontispiece to the 1863 Paris Hachette edition of Don Quixote.

The Pilgrim travels to find himself. He was lost when he left and hoped to be found by fleeing into something greater than he ever was or ever hopes to become. A reckoning occurs along the way, a reconciling, shell with self, restoring something somehow formerly lost along the way. It never matters why." From Pilgrimage, the first WhatNext Posting, 9/21/2020

"Is it ending as I intended?"

I never seem to know how to begin or end anything. I prefer continuums, endless loops, Ouroboroses forever nibbling their own tails. I don't spring cleanly out of any starting blocks. I likewise tend to miss the moment when I cross the finish line, continuing races longer than strictly necessary for them to end. I behave like Wylie Coyote, forever hatching half-again too clever plans and overrunning my mesa top again and again and again. I label this tendency Begending, a blending of both beginning and ending, neither, really, and also both. I deeply respect the inherent ambiguity experience brings, lessons not so much learned as still learning, without convincing conclusions. Impressions remain, mixed in with much inert material. I might wonder forever without ever concluding what any of anything "really" means. As my dear departed friend Jamie used to insist, it was just what it was and, forever, is just what it is, whatever that was and is. The purpose of any Pilgrimage might not be finding the purpose of any pilgrimage.

The purpose of WhatNext might have been its creation, not its conclusion.
It concludes here, just before the Solstice arrives. By this time tomorrow, it will have already been winter for three whole hours, and Next will have been left behind along with its accompanying What. It was never a question but a koan, a series of pebbles deliberately thrown into an otherwise still pond for the sole reason of making some waves, so that sunlight, moonlight, and starlight might produce concentric reflections. Perturbation, an under-appreciated action intended simply to get something moving, to rile some otherwise continuum, so the same-old might at least seem a little different, maybe just to see what might happen as a result. Not purposeful pursuit, but pursuit perhaps desperately seeking purpose, one intending to discover some difference, a Quixotic engagement, chivalrous at least in its protagonist's mind. Any pilgrimage leaves behind, abandoned, more than it ever pursues. It seeks something new.

I began WhatNexting naively. I had no destination in mind. I didn't know what terrain I might traverse. It seemed like one of those worst times for beginning anything. Inconvenienced by This Damned Pandemic isolation, last autumnal equinox seemed anything but filled with promises, betrayals impending. I knew we would not be traveling much, though we took the chance that we might somehow depart without really violating the tenets of actual isolation. In retrospect, we might have assumed wrong when we agreed to meet up with dearest old friends in a preseason ski resort known to be frequented by Texans. We succeeded, returning uninfected by virus and renewed by a few proximate days with otherwise too distant parts of our actual selves. The windmills we tilted never laid a blade on us, nor we on them.

Since then, it's been one continuous exploration, each morning goading me into further, sometimes even deeper, investigation of this ever-changing sameness, with one eye always focusing upon the horizon. Another unlikely rabbit pulled from another improbable hat, one never intending to encourage greatness or even again-ness, but something almost the opposite. I wanted (needed, really) to touch something potentially profound while surrounded with so much seemingly unchanging. My world had shrunken back in upon itself, horizons shriveled, possibilities withering around me. I felt an obligation to not go along quietly. I suspected that each new day might conceal some unexpected majesty, that it might hold some insight hidden to anyone not riding out like some delusional knight errant. Even a fickle wind might somehow hold some dragon within it. I might make some difference by mumbling my WhatNext mantra again and again and … . That mantra ends here and echoes onward.

History might decide whether any discernible difference emerged. I know for sure, or as certainly as I can muster, that my musings made a definite difference to me and also to many of my readers, if only as perturbations sparking conversations. This was a journey of discovery, not dominion. Once discovered, hardly conquered, perhaps only slightly more illuminated. Through the darkness, which still seems considerable, let anyone who cares to know that I at least attempted to spread around some light. My pen's not mighty now and it wasn't when I began, either, merely insistent. An ounce of insistence might be most of any cure. I began with the clear intention of ultimately encountering another BegendingAgain, since everything I've ever begun, ended back very near where it started, progress more circular that horizontal or vertical, but curiously nonetheless progress. Is it ending as I intended? I started with BegendingAgain in mind, so in that humbling respect, yes, it has. Thanks for Pilgrimaging along with me.

Respectfully signed,

Sancho Panza, Sidekick.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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