How to Find Happiness: A Summer on the Camino de Santiago - Part 1
Over the summer I went to my graduation in Wales. In order to get home, I had to catch a flight a month later on the west coast of Spain. I caught a short flight from the U.K. to southern France, where I began my journey. Walking over the Pyrenees, across the border into Spain and 620 KM over the Basque country of Spain. This is that adventure.
The human condition is one in which we intentionally attempt to fix that which is not broken. Inwardly, we gaze at our own setting sun and ask ourselves what's wrong with our rise. As if our own expectations for this life will never be able to satisfy our internal self-destruction. So we make excuses, we conform to normality and by that act of self sabotage, our brilliance dims. We choose to be less because eventually we fail to see how beautiful we are, if only we should forget for a moment these criticisms and remember who we were before we became only an observer- and not the sun itself.
It's been about six years since I've written anything of consequence. Not because I've had nothing to say but because once you put life in ink, those close to you in your life can see inside your soul. For some, perhaps this is a good thing but non conformity tends to lead to judgement among others. Regardless, we're the sole witness to our own story. Whether it be a wife, husband, partner, parent or friend. They are but just a part, a paragraph here and there in the chapters of our lives. Who are we then if only we know our own existence?
Are we really this single, same person that we believe we portray to others or are we multi-layered identities of complicated, overlapping personalities? Some would argue their binary identity because it makes them feel safe, it makes you feel like you know who you are. I would argue such contentions are a lie or you're living an incredibly boring life. Like ourselves, our experiences as we communicate them to others can never be fully translated into language. They must be felt, these moments must be lived to fully appreciate the nuances of their influence to change who we are from moment to moment.
Perhaps that's why some people try so hard not to change. Some of us are so committed to playing our roles upon the the world's stage that we disallow our own evolution. It's these people who believe they're the most sane of us who are often the craziest of all. We all have the ability to become more, so does our own willful apathy and ignorance to do so not seem a little bit insane to you? The fattest of all of us, should they run far enough can become a great athlete. History is littered with the average person performing monumental tasks. Why do we love the story of the underdog? The Kent Clark in our midst who rise up to become Superman. The reason we cling to these stories in fiction is because we know it to be true within ourselves. Yet, rarely do rise up to become the heroes of our own stories. Rarely, do we exceed our own expectation that we know is within us, when it's as simple as rising like the sun.
I'm 17 days and 350 KM into an 800 KM walk across Spain. During the last few weeks I've visited more towns and villages than even the most richest individuals of this world will ever see. Despite not being blessed with a life of wealth, the Camino de Santiago has a relatively cheap admission price: you must walk it to experience it. You pay for it with blisters, muscle aches and 6-8 hours a day of completely living in your head. The result is a state of zen to some, lunacy to others. For myself, it's been a bit of both as the the moments of each step, nature and myself, fade into one overlapping state of consciousness. Here, the modern concepts of time and space converge into their natural states. What sounds like new-aged hippieism is really to say that walking this much, for this long, tends to alter the perspectives of reality that have been ascribed to our understanding of normality. These ingrained perspectives being a result of our modern imprinting of culture, language, nationality and etc.
Try living without a label. I'm fat. I'm American. I'm black. Out here, there are no labels- you just are- I am. In that sense, our mere existence and our humanity is the basic foundations of who we are. This is not idealism and I am, by character, quite a cynic, so in fact, it's the complete opposite. It's something raw, something untapped and animalistic that makes you confront everything you hate about yourself. Therefore it's safe to say that our inner self-loathing, our fears, our hatred, our denial and misplaced ignorance is all that you will have left after walking with yourself this distance in 35c heat, sweating like a pig over an open fire.
Yet those around me seem happy. One pilgrim states in German "Ich Libre Es", borrowing from McDonald's "I'm Loving It." I'm slightly less inclined to agree on a continual basis but find my moments of wonder as I battle my inner demons. These which I must say are not the reason for my journey and to which I have no intention of actually resolving on this Pilgrimage. However, for others, this spiritual journey is an important part of self- healing. Indeed, the social atmosphere resembles group therapy sessions. It's from these conversations that it's obvious either we're all crazy to begin with or the Camino is leading us to such a place.
Every one seems to have relationship issues. Everyone is free spirited. Some have quit their jobs, divorced, ran away from responsibility or are simply are trying to escape reality. For myself, it's a chance to do something after a year of liminality, returning home from Wales to a world that didn't resemble the one I had left. Though it can't be said that I truly chose to do this for that reason, it however looms present as I cross from lucidity into this madness or vice versa.
Yesterday, a pilgrim passed myself going in the wrong direction. He carried a walking stick and wore a beard of almost a years growth. As I began to greet him as we do so often on the Camino, he yells "Fuck Santiago, I'm going back to Pampalona!" - I laughed for the next three kilometers. Yet, as I write this I wonder how far this rabbit hole goes. How far before I break? How long until I find myself lost to the real world and find myself living a life of unbound, free of intellectualism but by the happiness of the heart?
Happiness, of course, despite common perceptions, is not found, it's earned. It's the willing demand of the individual to the universe. It's a threat to tear this world apart because one finally realizes they can. That at any moment I can breach reality, walk off this path I've set for my self and change the course of my life.
Read more? Part 2: Maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.