Journey and Pilgrimage: Finding the Straight Way Again
Midway through the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood, wandering, for the straight way had been lost. — Dante
When Dante’s Divine Comedy opens in 1300 with those famous lines, the narrator himself is about 35, or–for a lifespan of 70 years–half-way through his life. But I’m not in my 30’s. I’m no longer even in my 40’s, as I have just turned 50 this year.
But I am also no longer in my dark wood, wandering. And my straight way that was lost–if I ever had it–has become remarkably clear in the last few years.
Now, half-way through my projected lifespan of a century–I come from a long-lived bunch–I am taking time out for a major pilgrimage. I will be walking Spain’s thousand-year-old El Camino de Santiago de Compostelo or The Way of Saint James, one of the most important pilgrimages of medieval times.
So much of pilgrimage is about contemplation and gathering insights that bring one closer the soul, a connection with others, and often a connection with Deity. Like others, this pilgrimage for me is also about contemplation and insights into the second half of my life, but it’s also a celebration of where I’ve been these past 50 years and where I’m going, of what I’ve gotten out of life whether given or taken, and what I want to get from my remaining days. It’s an affirmation that I am at last on the right path and that I always have been, even when I didn’t know it, because it led me to this place.
My pilgrimage, as is yours if you should choose to walk The Camino or choose to take a brief trip to some other place, famous or not, to contemplate the soul, is about the metaphor of the journey and the profound insights to be gained from understanding that life itself is a journey on a much grander scale than a simple physically difficult, emotionally challenging, spiritually insightful walk in the footsteps where thousands have trod before.