Sunday, November 1, 2009
A Break From Interpreting
The significance of reaching the halfway point was on my mind quite a bit this past weekend. I thought back on all the beautiful days, all the morning walks down small country roads amidst hills and pastures and amber leaves. Had I savored each moment as best I could? Even though this past 9 weeks has felt like double that and the next nine weeks might feel like a year, there will be a time in the future when I look back and yearn to experience just one of these days over again. I need to continue to live in the moment as best I can.
I have been walking for 63 days. I've endured mild sufferings - a bum ankle, a 10-day spell of bug bites, the gruesome visages of endless roadkill, the idiocy of a few drivers who yell incomprehensible things at me in an attempt to startle. Yet far outweighing those are the transcendent beauty of a thousands small moments of joy and awe.
I'll admit to getting a bit emotional as I walked the final few blocks to the Johnson City on Friday. All day I had been re-listening to some of my favorite songs and interviews. Then, as per tradition, I listened to Heather Hedley's song "I Wish" during the final minutes of my walk. That song gets to me. For all the interpreting of my experience that I do on this blog this journey is more deeply personal than I can relate in words. I know that when I finally walk into New Olreans and arrive at Jackson Square I am going to be overwhelmed by emotion. There might not be crying in baseball but by executive order I'm going to say that crying is allowed at the end of cross country walks.
I don't know what joys and challenges the second half of my trip holds. My cup already overflows with gratitude for the people who helped me during these first nine weeks. I certainly had my moments of frustration and despair where I questioned whether or not I wanted to continue. I'm sure there will be a couple more such spells ahead. But continue I did, and continue I will, until the Saints come marching in.
I am going to take a week off from intepreting my experience and instead just post picture albums from each day. This is meant to allow me time simply to be and not always be trying to describe. This was partially inspired by a story I heard Karen Armstrong tell in an interview which has stuck with me more than anything else I heard these first nine weeks:
Way back in 10th century before Christ some Brahman priests had a ritual of going out into the forest to make a retreat. They would put themselves in a different frame of mind by fasting and practicing different breathing exercises (early forms of yoga). Then they would come back together and a unique competition would begin. Each priest would try to define Brahman, which is the ultimate reality in Hinduism, something that lies way beyond the gods and anything we can know and yet is within us all. These definitions would be very poetic and enigmatic. The other priests would listen very carefully and then respond, moving on from what had been said to attempt their own definition of Brahman (or what we would say God). The winner was the priest who ultimately reduced everyone to silence. In that silence they believed that Brahman was present. The Brahman wasn't present in the wordy definitions of the Divine. It was present in the stunning revelation of the powerlessness of language and speech to describe the experience of God.