Philosophies of Men (Rambling musings along the dusty road)
June 14, 2014
Some thoughts as I contemplated life while walking the long, flat terrain of the Meseta today.
We human beings love to qualify things. We appoint levels of pain; scale grades; have ranges for a variety of areas…we love percentages and data. And then we have the audacity to determine based upon these ratings the degree to which one has reached success. As a teacher, I know all too well about determining the level of achievement based on a chart that shows developmental levels of growth. And yet, these results don’t really acknowledge the learning an individual has achieved over a given time period.
Hence when one decides just how successful a pilgrim is, it is based on some pseudo misconception that has been predetermined by an individual or a group that has collectively decided the scale as to what a pilgrim is. Pain and suffering seem to be a key point. You get points if you suffer along the pilgrimage. More points if it is for a spiritual reason–and by spiritual it is not a broad encompassing definition. It is determined based on the individual who is reading or hearing about a pilgrim’s journey that decides if it qualifies within a small range.
How one travels is another point of either contention, justification or qualification. Anything deviating from actually walking and carrying one’s own pack is frowned upon by some hard- core believers that one can not be a pilgrim unless you suffer the whole way through. Comes to mind the saying, “there is no gain, if there is no pain.” And yet history shows that pilgrims throughout all the centuries have used modern day convieninces in order to make the journey on the Camino de Santiago. Porters were used to carry bags. Carts and animals were used to transport not only bags, but people too. So in today’s time and place, buses, taxis are used for the transporting of individuals as well as equipment.
For some purists, this is sacriglious of the purpose of the pilgrimage and is seen as circumventing the journey.
This brings to mind the other scripted controversies heard throughout the years, women who use drugs for labor vs those who did it the natural way and birthed their young without. Does this mean that one way is superior to another even though the outcome is the same…a baby. For some, it is lauded above those who “caved” and birthed with the usage of drugs or other methods that deaden the pain.
Pain. Being a mrytre for a cause or enduring through pain and suffering is seen as a sign of strength or evidence of “true” sacrifice for service. And yet, is a veteran any less of one if he/ she does not have battle scars to prove to those that they were in combat?
Yes, we humans indeed enjoy determining grade levels, point systems, stats, percentages…in all areas in order to show proof of one’s level of success. And yet, why do we believe that there are certain ways which one has to meet in order to be a pilgrim on a pilgrimage? Why do we cancel out others levels of achievement by saying, “Well, next time…” Or “You almost made it…” Or ” If you put your mind to it you can do better.” We, in general discredit the level of one’s success by comparing theirs to another’s. Us humans are very quick push others to be better, faster, richer, better looking, smarter…
For me personally, I came to the realization early on, that for me, my pilgrimage is on- going. It is a metaphor for life in general. It isn’t to be confined to a 500 mile walk from France to Santiago, Spain. It isn’t something to check off on a bucket list. It isn’t about collecting the most stamps on my credential and framing it like a trophy on my mantle. It isn’t about how many miles I can walk in a day and brag about. It isn’t about how many or lack of any blisters I have. It isn’t about the pain or suffering. It isn’t about the need or the belief that one needs a health issue in order to justify taking a bus or having someone transport the pack ahead. It isn’t about the struggle in the elements or the long walks over the stones.
I don’t have to have the acceptance or acknowledgement of others in order to justify the belief that I am a pilgrim. My spiritual experiences are different from everyone else’s, because I am a unique individual and there is only one of me. There are no amount of notches needed to obtain in order to prove to others that I am a pilgrim. We all are different from one another and therefore what we each learn and how we develop on our own pilgrimages cannot be qualified. There is no need to do so and how presumptuous are we for doing this very thing.
A successful pilgrimage cannot be determined using science researched based methods. It isn’t quantifiable. The experiences cannot be replicated-even by the same individual. Anecdotal notes can be kept and compared, but to what avenue?
And yet, I have read and have listened to a great number of individuals ( I’m even guilty of having said some of these things way early on in the beginning of my planning stages) who believe that certain conditions need to be met in order to have a ” true” pilgrimage.
And this means for me, I am still learning how to embrace others whose experiences differ from mine and that I need to guard against becoming smug and resting upon my laurels. Everyday is a new day that brings with it a new adventure and another 7 hours to contemplate life as I trudge along The Way—or ride the bus.
BRAVO! Thank you so much for sharing your musings. It is true, the Camino experience cannot be replicated; it has many variations because it is unique to each individual. Because we are all constantly changing and evolving, even walking the same route several times, the journey will be different each time. May your thoughts on pilgrims and pilgrimage be read by many.
Glad to hear from you, and your musings! Sounds like things are going well and you are having a wonderful, personal Camino.
So true, Pilgrim Shawna.