Sunday, October 4, 2009
I'd like to pick up Marty's great question of return--how do we return from pilgrimage. What changes, what remains the same? Like Marty, I miss the simplicity of the road (and the company!) As one of our companions remarked, the camino isn't easy, but it is simple. My feet are rapidly returning to their urban-wimpy pre-camino state, back from their road-ready, almost hoof-like condition at road's end. I'm a little embarrassed by that.
One question keeps at me, though. On pilgrimage, we were largely people receiving. We needed the townspeople to be offering meals, lodging, (showers!!) laundry. The injured needed doctors. In the past, of course, we'd have been begging our way--nowadays we pay. But still, without the daily labor of those whose livelihood is some form of hospitality, of giving, we'd never have made it. In order to be mobile, we needed the stability of others. They, in turn, needed the constant flow of pilgrims for their livelihood. There was a true symbiosis of pace.
Now I've returned to a basically stationary life. I sleep in the same town night after night. I know where things are, how to access the resources I need. Heck, I speak the local language here in California pretty well. I am not always receiving. But am I giving? I think one measure of the spiritual profit of pilgrimage is to be aware of the ways in which we are all always receiving, and to receive lightly and graciously. But no less, I think I need to focus also on how this affects my ability to practice the virtues of stability, of being the kind of resource that others need. Hospitality, not limited to the question of livelihood (I do not expect to open a hostel in Berkeley, though I've worked at shelters here in the past,) but the deeper hospitality of those who support the others who travel through our lives, perhaps only for a moment, a day, a short time. Will I help them on their way?