Earth and Sky
There’s a separation between what is above and what is beneath. There is life on the ground, rooted to the dirt by gravity’s unrelenting pull, and life above in the shifting, amorphous chaos of the heavens.
In all of these writings, and within Prone to Wander itself, the time spent walking the way of the pilgrim provided ample opportunity to ponder and find oneself trapped in the wonder of whatever landscape one was in at the time. From the hills of the Basque country to the plains of the Meseta to the mountains of Galicia, the worlds of earth and sky remained constant, coexisting, but completely separate.
Some days I looked up; I saw the crisscrossing trails of airplanes, filled with people from all over the world, traveling across the globe: suitcases neatly organized in the overhead bins, little toddlers bouncing on knees to distract from the turbulence, sour breath of sleeping passengers gently exhaling upon their forced companions. As I walked, I often found myself thinking about how nice it would be to be one of those passengers, resting and not stepping on gravel, on blisters, getting to where I needed to go quickly, efficiently, and without pain or suffering.
Then, as it so often does, gravity found it’s way into my mind and brought me back to the dusty, overly trodden roadside path that I happened to find myself on at the time. I remained tethered to this landscape, unable to find a way out of my predicament. Then, after letting my mind wander in and out of these fantasies of flying or hopping into a taxi to the next destination, gravity — or quite possibly the Holy Spirit — reminded me of what I was doing by walking. I was repeatedly reminded of my humanity and inability to be anything else, despite my prayers and begging.
From dust, we came, and to dust, we shall return.
The way of the pilgrim is not easy or efficient; it is not practical or optimized. Modern society is sick with progress and easing the hardships that have naturally befallen us our self-inflicted ways of living. We are obsessed with reducing friction and outsourcing our problems. We feel we lack time, so we aim to fabricate more by optimizing our life as if we are software that can be updated, not bodies that have souls. What great things were made quickly and hastily? Move fast, and break things is no longer a motto placard to walls inside Silicon Valley’s temples, but posted like protest posters in every part of our lives.
The distinction found in the space between earth and sky reminded me that the way is long and the road narrow, and few find its end. Never in my life have I learned more about following Christ than on the 30 days of the Camino. The walk was hard; the days were tiring; the suffering was real. We are not gods, regardless of how much we worship ourselves. We do not live in the heavens or make our beds in the clouds. We are finite.