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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Peregrino: The Art of Living

It may seem strange to start this pilgrimage with this quote, but here goes:
You desire to know the art of living, my friend?
It is contained in one phrase: Make use of suffering
       - Henri-Frederic Amiel
I became enamored of the writings of Amiel when I first read his poem, which has become my "blessing" at the end of Eucharist.
Life is short, and we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those
who make this earthly pilgrimage with us
So, be swift to love and 
Make haste to do kindness.
You can only understand the power and energy behind that blessing if you understand the first quote from Amiel about the art of living and making use of suffering.

I have been planning this pilgrimage in earnest for over three years. In that time, two knees were replaced, a body recovered from the brink of death in septic shock, two beautiful babies were born and various and sundry other life events happened which conspired to keep both my feet planted on this side of the Atlantic while my heart and my mind were dreaming of the time for this journey.

I have a few hours lay-over at the airport in Charlotte to express some of the thoughts I have about what it is I'm about to do.

These are my thoughts and feelings. I am no expert. Even after I complete this pilgrimage, I will not be an expert. In many ways, I'll just begin to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a peregrino: a pilgrim. 

A pilgrimage is very different from a vacation or, as Americans like to call it, "a trip". As in, "We took a trip to Alaska". Or, "We loved our trip to France."

The first step in taking the journey of a pilgrimage begins with the starting.

John O'Donohue in his book, "To Bless the Space Between Us" tells the story of this beginning point.
The setting is Connamara, Ireland. One neighbor had just begun to build his new home. 

He had stripped the sod off the field to begin digging out the foundation when an old man from the village happened to walk by. he blessed the work and said, "You have left the worst of it behind you."

The builder laughed and said, "I have only just begun."

The old man leaned forward and said, "That's what I mean: you have begun and to make a real beginning is the most difficult act."
Before I began to actually put dreams and ideas into a plan of action - and at several points during it -  there is a gestation period where I "mulled things over".

There is hesitation. Procrastination. Excuses.

I talked myself out of beginning several times.  The last time was on the ride to the airport.

That great but nefarious modern theologian, Woody Allen, once said, "Eighty percent of success is just showing up." The Buddhists would say that this is the first rule of enlightenment.

Sounds so simple, right? Just show up.

It's like Nancy Regan's "Just say no."

It's the "just" that bears the greatest offense.

In order to get through the "just" and finally "show up", I had to work through and embrace the suffering in my life. Not just my own, but the suffering I carried with me, given as unintentional "presents" or "gifts" from my grandmother and mother, my aunts and uncles.

I grew up in a home deeply imbued with the Portuguese notion of Saudade. It's hard to translate from one language to another without, well, losing something in translation.

Wiki describes it best, I think. At least, it captures something deeply meaningful for me
Saudade was once described as "the love that remains" or "the love that stays" after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again.

It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one's children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence.

In Portuguese, 'tenho saudades tuas', translates as 'I have saudades of you' meaning 'I miss you', but carries a much stronger tone. In fact, one can have 'saudades' of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.
My grandparents were immigrants. I am second- generation American. There is something about growing up in a home and in a part of town where you knew your family and had a sense of 'home' but that understanding was exaggerated and amplified by knowing that, in any place else in this place where you lived, and moved and had your being, you did not belong and this was decidedly not your 'home'.

Indeed, you were reminded of that several times a day by kids and their parents who made fun of your food and your hair, your smell and the color of your skin.

It made me long for a place and a country where I had never lived, much less seen, but knew that I belonged there surely more than I felt I belonged in the place I called 'home'.

I felt "the love that remains". Still do.

And then, there's being a woman. And, a woman whose love means she has chosen "a different lifestyle"  - whatever the hell that means.

I have a life. Not a lifestyle.

I have come to understand that having "a lifestyle" means not living a plain vanilla bean life but rather, one that has strands of various flavors -  cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg.

And then, there's the adult woman who was considered "exotic". My thick, curly hair, hazel eyes and shapely figure marked me as a particularly 'interesting' object to men who thought all women were objects - an exotic toy to be played with and then abused if I did not find the game interesting or amusing. Or, even if I did.

The past two weeks of living Dr. Ford's testimony have been re-traumatizing.

As I've grown older I've come to understand that my wanderlust has its roots in the understanding of myself as an immigrant. The gift my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles gave to me is an understanding that the world was much bigger than my understanding and comprehension.

I have always wanted to discover that much bigger world, not to 'own' it or understand it, but to embrace it and, in so doing, to justify, in some way, my existence as, in blessed Audre Lorde's words, a "sister outsider".

This began my understanding of Ameil's words about The Art of Living.

On this journey, this pilgrimage, this peregrino is attempting to 'make use of suffering'.

Not that I haven't done that my whole life. I think that's what my ministry - most especially in these past 32 years I've been ordained - has been all about.

It's the genesis of all those years of activism within and outside the church - finding ways to use the power of the institutional church for the good of the powerless.

At this stage in my life, I need a 'deeper dive' into my own story. I need to get closer to the truth. In order to do that, I must get to the bottom of some of the stories I've told to others until even I believed them.

For me, at least, that begins with taking the first step. And then, the next. And then, another. Until the steps of the journey are not the thing but the way - the Camino - to 'make use of the suffering' and fulfill my desire to know the art of living.

I take these words with me on my journey, from the wisdom of Pierre Teillard de Chardin
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Read more at:
Before I leave this earth and return more fully to the spiritual being I have always been, I'd like to more fully embrace being human. I'd like to honor the suffering and the joy, the struggle and the laughter, the failures and the successes.

I hope to do that with every step I take.

I am thrilled that some of you will be joining me on this pilgrimage from wherever you are. I take all of your hearts into my heart.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Read more at: are

Please join me in this Buddhist Gatha
O Holy One, to you who lives in the silence and stillness, in the busyness and restlessness, kindle Light within me and in all that lives. May I go forth, walking gently on the earth and give you thanks for this journey and these lessons along the pilgrim's path.
Amen. Om Shanti

Off we go, then.


Chilebnr said...

Gracias hermana el El Camino!

David said...

Love always - and deep, deep bow
you blessed being

janinsanfran said...

We walked Oviedo to Santiago on the Camino Primitivo a year ago last September. I have nothing to say but that this was good. Buen Camino.