Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Pilgrimage

Then there’s the pilgrimage, in particular. In general. The going out. The traveling out and away from the familiar. The known. Into the unknown. To do what? To find God, of course. To find his presence or his evidence or his very being. To know him. To know him better by finding him out. Finding him somewhere other than home. Other than in the familiar places that seem.

That seem. Oh. To no longer be capable of containing him, maybe? That seem so familiar that mystery and magnificence and knee-knocking beauty have been driven out of them by experience. By the quotidian. By the grimness of the day-after-day-after-dayness of our ordinary lives.

And so we launch ourselves out onto what? Onto the road or the trail or the path or the river or the ocean sea that will we hope take us beyond the known world. Beyond the world we do not see any longer because it is too often seen and heard and lived in and into the world of the possibly strange. The possibly Other. The possibly sacred with his presence. Full of the light and magnificence of his presence.

And so the pilgrimage becomes a mode of literature. Becomes a kind of story we tell one another. A story that organizes our experience or our possible experience. And of course the quest is a particularly interesting variant of this. The true adventure. Where we are expected to blunder off the beaten path. Off the normal and expected pilgrimage routes. To find what? Why to find the wild God. The unexpected God. The God who can be almost anything. Who is not confined to the expected relics. The pile of expected bones or cloth or stone.

Or it becomes a visit to the Holy Man or the Holy Woman. Becomes a search for the one human or one of the few humans who speak directly with God or to whom God regularly speaks directly and who may or may not teach us how to Be. How to Be like him or her. So that we may be able to find God with us always. Immanuel himself.

But in any event, the pilgrimage becomes a story we can walk out into ourselves. Becomes a story we can make also for ourselves or of ourselves. And so we do this. Many of us. By the millions. The tens and hundreds of millions. And even the atheists and agnostics pick this up. Pick this genre up. And walk out into their own morphed pilgrimage. They hike up into the mountains. They hike out into the desert. They take the tour bus to the Grand Canyon rim or the cruise ship to the Alaskan coast or the cruise ship to Antarctica or to the Galapagos Islands.

Or they become scientists. They become wildlife biologists or marine biologists or geologists or climatologists or whatever, and they make their field work their pilgrimages. Their research becomes their own personal search for the Beautiful or the Wild or the Other, which are all forms of course of God. God in the world. God out away from the quotidian. The every day. The humdrum.

And so this pilgrimage genre becomes mighty among us, does it not? It becomes a way we organize and live our lives, as though we are characters in a pilgrimage story. As though we may understand ourselves and others around us and the physical objects and ideas of the world we inhabit in the context of this. And so some of us set out on our pilgrimages and live much of our lives in this genre, even though we could not tell you that this is what we are doing.

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