When Straight is a bit Narrow

Harry Eyrez:

This at least was the view of Martin Heidegger when he gave the title Holzwege – literally Woodpaths – to his first postwar collection of essays. As he wrote in the foreword: “In the wood are paths that wind along until they end quite suddenly in an impenetrable thicket.” To be on a woodpath is a conversational German expression that means to be on the wrong track, a way that goes nowhere. But Heidegger’s point is that nowhere might turn out to be somewhere. “Woodcutters and foresters,” after all, “are familiar with these paths” and none is quite identical to another. Woodpaths don’t lead you definitively out of the woods but, then, by learning woodways and woodcraft, you might come to see the wood as somewhere full of possibility.
In my years as a university teacher I found that students increasingly wanted Roman roads or motorways rather than woodpaths. They wanted what were called “clear goals and objectives”, narrower than my old-fashioned idea of nurturing a more humane person; or rather, they wished to be presented with the shortest, quickest way of acquiring the grades they needed … to get other grades. They seemed to want to be given the answers, rather than the means to explore and generate questions.