Along the Camino

Jeff Arnold and Joan Effertz have spent time the last few years on a spiritual journey walking different sections of the famed El Camino. They have returned home from their 2019 experience, renewed once again by their pilgrimage. In keeping with the ways of so many Quakers and so many pilgrims before them, Jeff and Joan have written about their journey in journals. Following is a page from Jeff’s journal from this year, with thoughts about the interior life and about the place he is moving through.

Day 2 — Povoa de Varzim

Another day of walking along the seaside on the boardwalk. Strong wind blowing … blew my hat off … a broad-brimmed Tilley … secured with a neck cord so it didn’t get away, but it did act like a spinnaker, pulling me leeward. Still, it was pleasant, watching the waves crash against the rocks as they have been doing forever, reducing the rocks to sand. But the rocks are still there somehow.

As I walked I meditated on the theme of wanting things to be different from the way they are and how that is such a central defining characteristic of me and the whole human race. So much so that most people don’t even see a problem with it. It drives the engine of progress! It’s so integrated in my own character that if I were to truly accept myself as I am—not wanting myself to be any different than the way I am—I would be accepting myself as a person who wants things, including myself and other people, to be different from the way they are! The fact is that, deep down, I don’t accept myself the way I am. I’m holding out for a "new and improved" version of myself. Trungpa says that the desire to achieve a particular state of consciousness—a new, improved state—is a dualistic notion that automatically separates us from the reality of what we are. I actually chewed on this for a couple of kilometers, with my hat pulling me leeward!

We walked through a nice city, Vila do Conde, on our way to Povoa de Varzim, also a nice place with a beautiful old town. Our guide book says that there has been a settlement here for 100,000 years.  More recently (!), King Manuel I passed through in 1502 on his own Camino to Santiago. Subsequently a cathedral, Igreja Matriz, was built, which we saw. Really beautiful, but then all these ancient cathedrals are beautiful. A lot of resources were poured into cathedrals. You couldn’t swing a cat in Porto without hitting a beautiful cathedral. On at least two occasions that I know of the Portugués government has liquidated the assets of the Holy Roman Church, and I can see why. In Porto, they turned the monks out of the monasteries and made the cathedrals into government buildings. They let the nuns stay in the convents until they died out. One of them outlived the rest by 17 years, in a building that was to become a train station. The citizens were praying for her to die!

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