“I am on a Pilgrimage. I must admit now that you press me. I have not a very clear idea of the end. But that is not the important question. These speculations don’t make one a better walker.” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress
Speculations may not make one a better walker, according to Lewis’ character, Virtue, but they are worth a bit more attention than Virtue is willing to concede. If you will allow me…
Last week I came across a mini-Ted talk by psychiatrist and writer, Iain McGilchrist. He quotes Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant”. The trouble, McGilchrist reminds us, is that “we have created a world that honours the servant, but has forgotten the gift.” Perhaps it is the desiring to return to the intuitive mind that preempts pilgrimage.
Desiring is a hunger that is better than fullness, CS Lewis reminds us, “this poverty better than all other wealth.” Lewis suggests that we have such a long absence of the desiring that we have nearly lost it altogether. We long for fulfillment and when we find it in people or material acquisition or even experience we say in our hearts, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life!” And then, it isn’t. Pilgrimage set on the hope that all my longings will be met somehow, sets me up to arrive home with souvenirs of resentment, disappointment, and even depression. McGilchrist reminds us that happiness is a by-product.
Making room for the intuitive mind is a journey, and wherever I trek, and I come to realize that there is a Landlord. My inner and outer landscapes are His. We are the “consciousness of God expressed” and here on pilgrimage we bear witness to the places where we meet God.
People’s stories have always fascinated me and so we visit places like the Peace Museum in Gernica to hear their witness. The town was handed over by Franco to be a pilot bombing project for Hitler in 1936. Pablo Picasso depicts the horror in his epic work, Gernica. The museum promotes international peace and reconciliation work.
In Bilbao artists bear witness to the inner workings of beauty on display at the Guggenheim Museum. Louise Bourgeois’ Cells, the current exhibit, is a mixed media collection expressing the trauma of her childhood. Photos were forbidden, so I can’t give you a visual report, but I can tell you that each cell – a physical representation of the psychological pain Bourgeois lived out at home – bore witness to the profound human ability to express through image what could not be adequately expressed through words. The observer enters the child’s thoughts and feelings through antique doors enclosing hanging glass balls of all colours – dreamlike and oppressive all at once. Themes of stairs, child-sized chairs, and drawers filled with resentment, anger, powerlessness hidden beneath her bed expressing her longing to escape and her inability to do so. I felt exhausted as we left and remembered how difficult it is to bear witness to another’s journey through pain.
Today was also a day of sharing in the joy of journeying through music — an impromptu African drum band, a jazz duet, a soccer victory song in the streets and children singing the Spanish version of Alouetta, Gentille Alouetta!
All in all, another good day of walking — or car-pilgriming as we would have it — in Spain!