When you are in a car, beautiful places are a moment; if you stop the car, they are a cluster of moments. When you walk, beautiful places are an eternity carved into the soul.
Click on the images above for information about two very different pilgrimages.
Pilgrimage – call of the soul . . . or utter madness?
Okay, so leaving a comfortable life to walk from Rome to Istanbul was a particularly dumb thing to do . . . at least that’s how it looked to so very many people.
And then there’s how it looked to me . . . which was a bellowing call echoing through every cavernous chamber in my body to walk with my son across the landscapes of Italy towards the burning eastern sun.
Pilgrimage is the art of ancient travel. Pilgrimage harks back to forever, when human beings set out on journeys from which they might not return, journeys they knew would transform the rest of their lives – journeys that were worth every risk because, live or die, to deny the call was to close the door on life and that meant certain death anyway: death to the spirit.
Pilgrimage is a subpoena from the heart that defies all common sense. It is a mistake to attempt to rationalize the irrational – and an even bigger mistake to attempt to justify your decision to set forth to those around you (they’ll think you’re a basketcase anyway).
Just ask Jessica Watson, the 16-year-old Australian who sailed solo around the world. Her parents understood that Jessica had to go – that the call to put everything on the line for transformation was greater than their fears for her safety.
The pilgrim is not unlike a comet, burning off all that is futile and unnecessary until what is left is the essential, unmalleable core. The pilgrim walks the Earth, walks the wheel, walks the turning seasons, surrendering all of who she is and all she thinks she knows and all she think she wants to the road and the weather and, in Jessica’s case, the world’s great oceans.
Pilgrims are those who embark on journeys of endurance and, in the end, these journeys ask nothing more from us than to keep going. Crazy as we look from the outside, we are honouring the call of the human spirit – our collective yearning for transformation – and, in so doing, we do it for everyone.
Pilgrimage is where the romance of the road meets reality, boots to the bitumen.
We can think about what we’d love to do in this life – or we can do it.
This is why we need our pilgrims – the ones who put everything on the line for freedom and love and truth – because they do it for all of us.