What’s the point of pilgrimage? No, really.

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Lately, as I wake in the morning, I can feel the realization dawn over my body like a wave of prickles cascading from head to toes: Jesus. Seven weeks. In seven weeks, I’ll be in Spain. In seven weeks, I’ll be walking every day.

I haven’t been blogging because I’m feeling pretty discouraged at the moment. Not with my body or my training, but with what’s happening in my country. On one hand, I want to stay informed. On the other, everything I see about the presidential race shocks me, appalls me, and scares me. What are we doing? Most candidates are sleeping with Big Money (or want to) and another is talking about the size of his sexual organ. What on earth is happening?

It feels as though the very fabric of this country–one with so many kind and generous souls–is being stretched and torn. Is it race? Is it sexuality? Gender? A growing millennial generation with wholly different values than the old, dying guard? I have no answers, but a growing dread of September elections.

With all of this going on, I’m deeply in doubt about the usefulness and relevance of pilgrimage in a modern, connected age. What’s the point of unplugging and walking? Why spend all that money, time, and energy? What does it accomplish, and how does it solve anything?

I am having a dark night of the soul. It’s not permanent, but it is real: Part of me truly and earnestly does not want to walk another five hundred miles. It feels like such an interruption of my life that, in many ways, I haven’t learned to live since my Camino three years ago. Yes, despite the fact that I’ve assented to this calling, I am not thrilled with it. I’m resisting it still because I don’t see the point.

Maybe that’s the way a calling works. A yes is required before anything will be revealed about the journey or its purpose. The messages I heard over a year ago were clear and unequivocal, “You will walk again. You will return to the beginning.”

I assented. I will go.

It’s then I remember that the Camino is life. There is nothing we can do that isn’t part of the journey. I can walk in Spain, or I can walk through my own neighborhood. I can open my heart to other pilgrims as we share a meal, or I can open my heart to the person behind me in the coffee drive through or give a five bucks and banana to the homeless guy with the cardboard sign. It’s all part of the same journey. There is nothing outside it. Everything is included.

This helps me remember that my country is on its own journey—of which I am a part. We are called to create a more perfect union. That is our purpose. We said yes to this over two hundred years ago, but we don’t know where that will lead. Our country’s journey is a camino.

So with all of this swirling around in my mind this morning, I walked into the grocery store to pick up a few things, and I received another message. A confirmation. A benediction: The song playing on the PA system was a Camino anthem, “I will walk five hundred miles, and I will walk five hundred more…”

I get it. This path I walk is blessed. All our paths are.

Buen camino, peregrinos. Keep walking.

8 thoughts on “What’s the point of pilgrimage? No, really.

  1. Thank you for this lovely reminder. I too am going through a dark night of the soul here in SMA, facing things I’ve been avoiding for years. It’s not easy, but I know that I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I will walk five hundred miles . . . . . . .
    I saw The Pretenders live, singing that song at a folk festival a few years ago – a screaming brilliant goose-bumps moment!
    Alison xoxox

    1. What an experience to be screaming, singing along to that song instead of wryly smiling in the supplements aisle. 🙂

      Thinking of you, Allison, and sending warm winds of comfort as you traverse your own lonely, but worthwhile road.

  2. Ah, j’aime bien le coup de la chanson, c’est une qui figure sur le CD que tu nous a gravé…

    Tu as de la chance que cette question sugrisse. Et en fait, je crois qu’on peut se poser cette question sur tout, et sur rien en même temps… Est-ce que faire le chemin est mieux que de ne pas le faure ? Non. Mais ne pas le faire n’est pas mieux non plus… Le mental cherche du sens mais il n’y en a pas, il y a juste eu une envie, un appel que tu as décidé d’écouter, et c’est tout ce qui importe.

    Rien de nihiliste dans ces propos, seulement du détachement…


  3. Great song!
    May it motivate you in the seven weeks to come, and again as you walk across Spain. The purpose will be revealed with time…I’m sure of it.

  4. Yes, I so hear your voice over all that is happening in our country and I too am shocked. One thing I can do is allow for my voice to be heard, I voted in the caucus (which my state has), I share relevant postings on FB albeit I don’t typically use it as a platform for politics, because I too fear we may elect someone that will not heal any of the world and perhaps do far, far greater damage than we can even begin to imagine. Walking right now may give you more clarity on all of this, and also provide a moment to surrender to all that is and sit with it. Yes, you can walk 500 miles, and for whatever reason we are called to it in our own time, and this just happens to be yours. Perhaps it is the waiting that is a challenge, and of course we know that is also a part of the journey. The lines from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day come to my mind, perhaps they will offer some comfort.

    Who made the world?
    Who made the swan, and the black bear?
    Who made the grasshopper?
    This grasshopper, I mean-
    the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
    I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
    which is what I have been doing all day.
    Tell me, what else should I have done?
    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    1. Yes! Yesyesyes! Thank you SO much for sharing this with me. This poem gives me chills every time I read it. Reminding me again that Something Greater makes the world and only I can decide how to use this singular life. What a relief that I’ve only got one life to account for and (thankfully) not a whole planet’s worth! Thank you for the wisdom and empathy. I’m so grateful.

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