Monday, July 2, 2007

the things i thought i already knew

I´m not quite sure what I´ve learned from the Camino. I could spew out an honest and glorious list of things that are important to me from the experience, but I´m not sure I could actually point to specific things I have learned. Part of that is because being on the Camino is so far removed from real life that I don´t have a solid idea of how my experiences will translate. I´m cautious to sound naive or to proclaim that I am a changed person, though I do think that any kind of travel and new experience can have a profound effect on a person.

That said, there are three things I relearned.

1. I´m happy. Soy feliz. Those of you who have studied Spanish will understand the difference between soy y estoy in this case. The general translation is that I´m not simply smiling at this moment. I´m generally happy with my life, with my choices, with my career, with my friends, with my family. I´m happy with who I am. I´m not perfect. I´m not satisfied. But I´m blessed and proud and laughing most of the time. I´m not done trying to get better at it, though.

2. My body is amazing. Although I could have articulated this before the walk, I definitely didn´t feel it in the same way. I have gained a confidence that I didn´t know I lacked, an appreciation for what my body is capable of accomplishing. I won´t pretend that I have silenced all self-criticism and grown entirely accepting of my physical form, but I do believe in myself quite a bit more than I did before.

3. The world can be a peaceful place. I watched it happen over and over. Admittedly, pilgrims are a self-selected group; they want to be on the Camino. Still, they form an amazing community. They co-exist despite differences in ages, abilities, experiences, customs, nationalities. They make each other laugh despite physical pain and torrential rain. Even the faiths, the source of much conflict in the world, are different. For a purportedly Catholic pilgrimage, there is quite a variety of attitudes toward religion, especially toward the Catholic Church. Most people didn´t even speak the same language. Are there disagreements? Sure. They get sorted out, though. In 6 weeks of walking, I only witnessed one that was acrimonious. The Camino demonstrates that words aren´t really necessary to offer sympathy about hurting feet, to share a piece of chocolate, to admire a field of flowers, or to complain about snoring. Some people say that the Camino holds a sort of magic. While I agree that it is a special place, I think that the main thing that makes it special is that people choose to live peacefully and cooperatively despite obstacles.

I may not always be happy with my life or my body, but I hope I never forget that the Camino taught me that when I hope for peace, I do so because it is possible. I´m not sure I believed that before. Now, I have some proof. Call me naive or a Pollyanna if you will. No me importa. I have learned to hope.

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