The Problem of the Definition of Pilgrimage – one half of a dialogue

Craig Baird boom shot Cypress L walkers (photo courtesy of Craig Baird)

(please click on the link)

A conversation over morning tea at Concordia’s Dept of Theological Studies between Matthew R. Anderson (on camera) and Sara Terreault (staying off camera).

2 replies on “The Problem of the Definition of Pilgrimage – one half of a dialogue”

Hello Matt. Just a word to say thank you for the posted Vimeo conversation. My work browser is dated so very few sentences it would halt, in order to catch up with the data stream… then resume. This gave me time for reflection as I ate my lunch, and seemingly drank tea with you.

I find the content most interesting following on our summer experience of walking (a portion of) the NWMP Trail. I find the academic tensions fascinating as well… I am not sure that I would want to have heard the key words shared herein before our trek in July/August becuase the would have only served to construct in advance for me some ideas and a framework of what I was going to experience; how much better to go as a child ~ open and uncertain ~ into pilggrimage. But a priori: the ideas of a search for meaning, belonging, identity, are aspects I can now hand real experiential meaning upon. So too, the Christian, pre-Christian and secular or post-modern distinctions and reflections cast light on the experience. I was but a stranger to the Prairie grasslands seeking to discover the meaning of pilgrimage, to claim my belonging in history and as a dweller on the semi-arid lands of South saskatchewan, (to complete my wondering about what there was to the South of Regina in an intimate way) and time delve my identity as a Metis man on the cusp of somekind of retirement and post-onsite-parenting years. Surely our pilgrim trek offered all these and more… and to the BTMN acronym: how these play in my mind as the fatigue and the dig-deep-push-on one faces after 3 PM when you’ve been walking under the hot sun since morning; the rise and fall of the grassy escarpments and presentation of thick-lined coullees as you crest yet another hill; the effort to stay with the group, keep ’em in sight and the way a visible destination can seem to stay small and far away despite your constant steps toward it, and the story: in our case, the past story of peoples long gone ~ indigenous and settler upon now radically altered landscappes, and the present story of just how the heck we came to be there, slumped in the shade of an abandoned farmhouse eating our lunches and giving our heart rates time to recover before resuming our journey. Yes, and more… much more… but perhaps this entry is long enough.

I met a woman in Toronto airport recently and we were figuring out what Air canada desk to go to check-in. She was flying international and said she was off to Spain to ‘do the Camino’ ~ or about 100 KMs of it. She had done Kilimanjaro, and another pilgrimage. So I aksed her ~ as an expert ~ what it was about Pligrimage that drew her back, why pilgrimage? She replied quickly: “Because I get to be just me. I am not a mother, wife, office manager… I leave all that behind, and I am by myself and just me!” I thanked her as she hurried on her way to a serpentine line queued for security clearance. I thought: there she goes, her journey begins this way, with patience. Her comment too really resonates with our Trail Trek: I thought I’d be ruminating about the changing job, my family stuff, my future… but strange really how all of that fell away, and there was just the step, step, step… toward a receding horizon… limited linear thought and just an expanse to touch upon those internal existential values at their finest. Now there’s a term tht needs unpacking! Where’s my Herman Hesse, Sartre or Dostoyevsky philosophy paperbacks – the extent of my scholarly inquiry now 40 years old?

A quote from Dostoyevsky offere up on Google:
“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

ah… in that frame I offer these many, yet few, words.

Later my friend,
Rick Kotowich

Dear Rick – this is such a fine and detailed comment that it’s taken me this long to ponder it and have much to say in reply. I agree wholeheartedly about the ways in which we expect time and energy on pilgrimage to be able to “deal with” pressing issues, only to have them fall away in the ongoing slog of the existential matter of putting one foot in front of another. And perhaps that’s all the answer we need.
And finding our places on the prairie……me too, my friend. Me too. Not as a metis man in my case, but as the grandchild of settlers. It was wonderful for that. Thanks for your words here, and for your thoughts so often and well expressed as we walked. You were more in your own thoughts, it seemed, on your return for the end of the pilgrimage. That’s worth talking about someday as well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s