April 16, 2013 (Tue) Chicago Airport

Why am I doing this pilgrimage?

That’s the question that all the books suggest answering before commencing a pilgrimage.

Is it Santiago? The burial place of the relics of a supposed saint? I’m skeptical of the Church’s motivations for reoccupying Spain in the Middle Ages. The appearance of his relics was too politically convenient to ignore. I especially resist the later image of Saint James the Moorslayer — a murderer on horseback, leading the charge against an intelligent and mostly peaceful people. Yet celebrating bloodshed is not unique to Spain (or the Church for that matter).

Saint James was one of Jesus’ apostles. He heard Jesus’ teachings firsthand, was chastised by him for not understanding, and had his feet washed by God Himself. He is said to have later traveled through Spain to convert people to the new religion. So perhaps in Santiago, the resonance of this pilgrim resides. Whether the man’s remains actually remain in Spain may not matter. Perhaps the years and years of people uttering his name at a tomb in Santiago place him there in spirit, if not in body.

But for me, it’s not about Santiago.

Is it the Atlantic? The ancient destination of the Celts who worshiped the setting sun at the known end of the earth? Running out of road, as it were, speaks to me as a measure of how very far this journey may take me. Putting my feet in the water is the image that comes to mind. Perhaps it will happen.

What’s becoming clear is that this isn’t a journey to somewhere, a place on a map. It’s a journey to and with myself. I want to discover my limits, to be in contemplation, to purge some of the self-defeating patterns I’ve carried with me for so long. I’m both afraid and eager for this.

Who would I be without my negativity? My criticism? My desire to control everything and everyone around me? Even with a velvet glove, it’s still manipulation. I want to find peace and satisfaction with what is on the Camino. I know this is a tall order which some people spend a lifetime cultivating. I’m just tired of reacting to everything. I’m tired of holding others at arm’s length.

What would it be like to accept everything as it comes? To be at peace with what is? To differentiate between my experience and others’? All these questions — and so much time to contemplate.

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