We have arrived! I’m a day late (now 2) notifying you; we arrived at Santiago de Compostela Friday 14 Oct 17, in an anti-climatic haze of tiredness and confusion. Although we are pretty used to the centers of historic cities being a maze of tiny streets, we couldn’t seem to find our bearings in Santiago. We thought we had found the cathedral – but weren’t sure – and then couldn’t figure out how to get into it. Part of the problem was that the front is scaffolded for renovation. I (Connie) peeked into the scaffolding: oh my goodness, there are huge, ancient pieces of columns and sculptures on the ground waiting to be transformed to their former glory. I am thankful for that.
Anyway, we gave up and went instead to the pilgrim’s office where we waited in line for 2-3 hours to get our certificates of completion. It was nice to be surrounded by pilgrims for what will likely be a final time. Then we ate and went to bed early – like good pilgrims.
I slept for 10 hours – very weird for me. Today I felt human so I found the door to the cathedral and went to mass. I didn’t understand much but heard a powerful, haunting choir, saw the impressive botafumario (smoking metal thing swinging through the cathedral), and heard the pilgrim’s blessing. How did I know? I heard the priest say, “blah blah casa blah blah Santiago,” followed by a long list of nearly every country of which I have heard. The view from my seat suggested people from each of those countries were present.
Tonight we had dinner with 4 other women we met along the way: two from South Carolina, one from Australia, and one from Sweden. We were all thrilled to run into each other again in Santiago.
So it is over. Which, for me, brings back the question of what this pilgrimage was about. According to an online dictionary, a pilgrimage is a long journey or search of moral or spiritual significance or exalted purpose. Doesn’t sound like me at all. I’m usually more concerned about a back ache, my next meal, something funny that just happened or colors. I love colors. But, I am also addicted to news.
I know this will surprise none of our friends, but both Donna and I watch, listen to, and or read news daily. I began requiring a daily fix when I was deployed to Iraq in 2003. At that time, CNN was on non-stop in the chow-halls and many of us were quite interested because we were directly impacted by world events. Donna started listening online to KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, in part to stay in touch with home. She listens to news via KBIA’s NPR every day in Ecuador. Most days on the Camino we were still able to get WiFi and get our fix. The experience of the Camino encourages thoughts about the state of ourselves, our nation, and of humanity; for me, those thoughts readily turned to the news.
Several days before we reached Santiago we passed a wall on which a series of questions/statements were displayed. It was entitled, “The Wall of Wisdom” by Bruno Lernout. A couple of statements stayed with me: 1) “When you are aware that our society is on the verge of destroying itself, carrying on with your life as usual makes no sense;” and, 2) “People who are awake do not expect authorities to avoid mankind’s self-destruction, but change society by changing themselves.”
During our last 16 kilometers going into Santiago, I found myself thinking of those quotes and about how I might take some responsibility for turning around what to me seems an avalanche of horribleness that U.S. tone & policy have become. Spoiler alert – I have no answer. I do, however have some musings.
For obvious reasons, I began thinking of a pilgrimage- a walk from the west coast to D.C., with opportunities along the way to discuss, listen, study, and to come up with ways that I, other citizens and our leaders can demonstrate honor, compassion, industry, dignity, open-mindedness, fairness, and responsibility. Wouldn’t that be something?
It would be a Herculean task for community organizers to facilitate thousands of people to consider hundreds of big questions like, “What do we want?” Do we want equality of opportunity for all? What would that look like? Who do we want represented in decision making? Is our current system working? How do we want decisions to be made? Do we want rule of law? How is that working for us? Do we want separation of church and state? What role do we want religion/science to have in government, if any? Do we want an educated populace? If so, what does that mean, how is it achieved, and who pays for it?How hospitable an environment do we want and how can we achieve that? Might healthcare be a necessary ingredient of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”
So, big questions and no answers. Perhapsanother pilgrimage. Interested?