In retrospect, it was a terrible idea to go into the woods. We decided to go on vacation to the woods, but now we see that this was an awful idea. There are too many paths through the woods, but this is not the main problem. The main problem is that it is too hard to tell what is a path and what is not a path.
The paths were made long ago, by hunters, by trackers, and by Indians. But we are none of these, and now, we are confused. I discussed this confusion with you, late last night, while we were standing by our campsite in the woods.
“I think we’re fucking lost in the woods,” I said.
“I think so too,” you said.
How the fuck, exactly, do we get out of here? This is also a question that I discussed with you.
“Is that a path?” I said.
“I don’t know,” you said.
“Do you see that?”
“I don’t know,” you said.
“I can’t tell if it’s like a path… or just like a natural depression.” We had wandered down some paths earlier, but they turned out to be not-paths. A not-path is exactly like a path except for the crucial part where it eventually turns out not to be a path. It’s a mirage. You walk down what seems like a well-worn trail, but it turns out just to be a natural clearing between trees, and soon enough the not-path comes to an end and you find yourself pushing through brambles and catching your arm on thorns while still trying to convince yourself that the not-path is in fact a path. And then you’re even more lost in the woods.
“We’re fucked,” you say.
Perhaps. Perhaps we are fucked. There are many trees and many divisions in the land between the trees but none of them seem to be a way out and so perhaps we are fucked. Though there are alternatives. We could, for instance, burn down the woods. However, this seems like a plan of last resort, a really desperate measure — though it would definitely eliminate “the woods” as a problem. But then, what if we caught fire along with the trees and bushes and things? That would be bad, very bad. So many factors to consider. What if the fire spread to the town beyond the woods and burned that town down? Or what if the fire spread and then just kept spreading, until it spread everywhere and burned the whole world down? So many factors to consider.
“Is that a path?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s just a natural depression.”
So are we fucked or not fucked? These trails are illusions, mirages that seem solid until you walk down them and find that they are a trick of the light, a hologram that you can put your hand through. Is that a path? Is that not a path? How did we even get into this situation in the first place? And how will we ever find our way out of these woods — which are of course not real woods, because we never went on vacation to the woods. I made up the part about us going to the woods. You see, the woods are just a symbol; a metaphor. A metaphor for you and me.
image – U.S. National Archives