Today's google map (check it out, the cathedral is gorgeous): http://goo.gl/maps/IihLG
Entry 40, Januray 3rd, 2012
A short day today, only 12km to León. The municipal albergue here is huge – 140 beds. Since we were early, we took some time to walk to the city. They were just opening the cathedral as we walked up.
I came on the camino for transformative experiences. Stepping into the cathedral in León was one of them. I don't know what it was, but I could feel the stones in my foundation shift. I've been searching for “What next?” in my life, and now I know. Whatever I do next, it must be fighting the good fight. That is the answer.
How? I don't know. But I have another piece of the puzzle. Just like last time, on the Ebro plain when I said, “I don't have anything figured out, and it pisses me off!” the realization seems very simple and obvious, but it is only in making it that everything seems that way. I suspect most important realizations are like that – so obvious that afterward you cannot imagine not knowing what you've learned.
I felt the desire to pray, but there was nowhere to sit and I was too scared to draw attention to myself. Instead I found myself repeating in my head, “I don't know what you are, but I am on my knees in front of you.”
Which is strange, as I usually shy away from the harsh, obedience-demanding vision of God. Am I too afraid to consider the possibility? Or maybe faith is what remains when fear has left the body – if I am no longer afraid of what will happen to me in life, I have surrendered my will and desire to control what is to . . . something? Something else?
My whole life I have had a powerful aversion to overt obedience – not in the small sense, but in the large sense. As I grow, I am getting less afraid and more capable of acting on that aversion (fear used to keep me in line). Perhaps it is time to question that obedience?
Two stories come to mind. The first is Coelho raising the cross when Petreus orders him to. That chapter of “The Alchemist” is titled merely “obedience,” and ends with the cross up and very little discussion. I am unsure what lesson to take from it.
The other story is the moment in Siddhartha after he leaves the Buddha . . . Siddhartha decides to make a study of himself with no more teachers. This feels like the path I want to follow. Where is the obedience there?
Anyway. I finally continued around the inside of the cathedral. It was beautiful in the late afternoon light – an orange glow suffused the warm stone. Similar in design, layout, and style to Notre Dame, it is lighter and in my mind preferable. More than half of the surface area is glass – gothic architecture truly is all about light! I love it.
It was looking at the stories in the stained glass windows that gave me the clue to decipher the onrush of feeling that I had felt. I belong in this company – the people trying to figure “it” out. The tales of blood and sweat and adventures and holy men . . . stories of distant lands and kings and the quest. I am one of them deep in my soul and I know the true nature of the stories they tell. I am a warrior of the light and I must fight the good fight. That is the second step of clarity.
How? I don't know, but that's okay. Coming to peace with the slow progress of the camino and coming to peace with the fact that no, I don't have anything figured out, are linked somehow and may even be one and the same. The world is different now than it was then. I do not know the way . . . but as the drunk Catalan man in Abrera said, there is no camino but the one we walk, right?
Obedience to the path that we walk? Is that what this means? Obedience to the self? Not to some faceless deity, but to something greater – the self? I don't know.
I don't know why I like cathedrals so much. I went to mass after my moment and the only thing that it told me was that it is certainly not the Catholic faith that anchors my love of churches. Somehow I feel that Christ thought the resurrection would have been a bigger deal than his crucifixion . . . I mean, everybody dies, right? Very few come back to life. And eating his flesh and drinking his blood? What creepy symbolism. It is like the buildings existed beforehand and the church found them and took them over.
And I wouldn't call myself Christian, because that would require conversion. What is there to convert? I am already whole and always have been. I do not have the power to change parts of myself at will, and so certainly no one else does. Especially not by dunking me in a river.
One could argue that by repeated habit, we can change ourselves. Ah, but who holds us to that habit? A part of ourselves that already exists.
I feel like I have a church in my heart. I can almost feel it standing strong inside. A simple, tall, stone room, worn smooth and warm. My memories form stories in the stained glass. I kneel in the center. But I know that the windows, roof, and walls could be torn away and the strong center would remain. Wash away the foundations, leave me falling through space with no body, and I still remain, a burning flame in the center. A single candle in a church; it is me.
The church I see in my mind is the cathedral in León.
Oath of silence tomorrow. Lots to think about.
Chan Hee is listening to Sonny Rollins on her iPhone. Holy shit I love bebop.