Do You Know the Way?

Today, I learned a new phrase in Mandarin: “你认识路吗 — Nǐ rènshí lù ma” It means “Do you know the way?” Naturally, I thought of a culture with a slightly different name.

The Mandalorian is a TV show in which “Mando,” the protagonist, always knows the way, at least initially. Orphaned at a young age and then adopted into the Mandalorian culture — a Stoic, warrior-bred people — Mando later becomes a bounty hunter and follows his peoples’ creed to a tee.

Unfortunately, that creed includes a lot of outdated rules and misconceptions which, eventually, Mando gives up on one by one in order to navigate his ever-changing reality. Maybe not all bounties should be completed without asking questions. Maybe there are more Mandalorians out there than Mando initially assumes. Perhaps, “this is not the way.”

It is comforting to have a fixed set of rules to live by, a faith of any kind. But even the best rule only lasts so long, and so it is normal, even necessary, to admit that “Yeah, okay, I no longer know the way.”

Our best skill isn’t rote memory. It’s wayfinding. That’s what we were born to do.

Like a certain bounty hunter navigating a vast galaxy, we don’t need to remember every phrase of a new language. What we need is the courage to admit we’ve gotten lost, enough optimism to keep walking, and a little flexibility in where we want to go. As long as we bring these with us, we’ll always find our way.