Pilgrim

Pilgrim

By David Whyte

‘Pilgrim’ might be the word that most accurately describes us; someone passing through very quickly, someone here but on their way to somewhere else, someone never quite knowing what is most important, the path or the destination or the person walking along it and to it, and someone all along who is never quite sure from whence or from where their next bite of bread will come. We are travelers, a conversation between here and there, who each need visible and invisible help along the way to survive. Most fearfully, a pilgrim is, by definition, someone abroad in a world of impending revelation where something is just about to happen, including, and just around the corner, and as a part of their eventual arrival, their own disappearance.

The great measure of human maturation is the increasing understanding that we move through life in the blink of an eye; that we are not long with the privilege of having eyes to see, ears to hear, a voice with which to speak and arms to put round a loved one; that we are simply passing through. We are creatures made real through contact, meeting and then moving on; creatures who, strangely, never get to choose one above the other. Human life is a contact and a getting to know, and a moving beyond which is forever changing, from the transformations that enlarge and strengthen us to the ones that turn us from consuming to being consumed, from seeing to being semi-blind, from speaking in one voice to hearing in another.

Always, underneath everything, we sense that all at once, we are the journey along the way, the one who makes it and the one who has already arrived. We live in parallel and cohabiting contexts: we are still running around the house packing our bags and we have already gone and come back, we are alone in the journey and we are just about to meet the people we have known for years…

But if we are all movement, exchange and getting to know, where a refusal to move on makes us unreal, we are also journeymen and journeywomen, with an unstoppable need to bring our skills and experience, our voice and our presence to good use in the eternal now we visit along the way. We want to belong as we travel. 

The way we give ourselves to that pilgrim path as an ultimate initiation into vulnerability and arrival, is a form of faith, never fully knowing what lies on the other side of the destination, or if we will survive it in any recognizable form. Strangely, our arrival at that last transition along the way is exactly where we have the perspective to understand who has been travelling all along.

In that perspective it might be that faith, reliability, responsibility and being true to something unspeakable are possible even if we are travelers, and that we are made better, more faithful companions, and indeed pilgrims on this never to be repeated journey by combining the precious memory of the 'then', with the astonishing, but taken for granted experience of 'the now', and both with the unbelievable, and hardly possible 'just about to happen.' 

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