The Romans put up milestones for marking progress. And we’ve been marking our roads that way ever since. How much farther? Quo Vadis?
For the answer to all of these as well as life’s other questions, just look to the sidelines. There you will see the poles and chains, the foam yardage markers, the Dial-A-Down sign, all milestones on the street of pain, where progress is grudging, muscle and bone sacrificed for real estate—yards, feet, sometimes inches at a time. Quo Vadis? I’ll tell you “quo Vadis”—right past that next chalk line, the next yard marker, the foam pylon on the corner of the end zone. That’s where I’m always going. Where isn’t the issue. The issue is how to get there. How to get past that next milestone.
The poet T.S. Elliot had it all wrong. Life isn’t measured out with coffee spoons, it’s measured out on the Dial-A-Down. One, two, three, oblivion. I live on the one’s and two’s. The three’s are trouble, a road all uphill, all iffyness, all a maybe- promise too often broken. You know where you are, but you don’t know what’s coming. The milestones themselves say nothing. Ten yards more, or less, is all the same to them. All chalk lines are equal to all other chalk lines. They measure progress but never applaud.
The chains come out and have their say, yes or no. Never maybe. The milestone has been reached, or passed, or not. The chains don’t lie, but they do torture. Just this much more, just this much more. Just this far from a moment of glory that could make these bones stop hurting, at least for a little bit.
Mile markers made of stone. Yard markers made of foam. It’s all the same. Progress is hard when progress is made against determined foes. Spoilers who do not have your best interests at heart. Who want to retard your progress, reverse it if they can. Distance is made with muddy boots on the ground. Grind it out. Grind it out . Yard after yard. Travel the hard way. True, you can go by air. And though it is swift, it is not sure. In any case, air travel starts with the ground crew, preparing everything from take-off to landing. Air travel starts and ends with feet on the ground, passing those milestones on cleats, not wings.
The life of a football game is measured in milestones. Those who pass the greatest number usually end the game smiling, beaten up, maybe, but not beaten. That’s because the milestones never lie. They tease. They torture. They mock with their smug and sedentary silence, but they always tell the truth. And the truth is that winners pass their way more often.