My Own Private Camino

So many people talk about war, about poverty, emigration, about nuclear fallout and political discourse. The news is now riddled with bullet point reporting about stranded soldiers, homeless families, courageous politicians, and psychopathic leaders. You’d hardly know they were talking about humanity. You’d never guess they were talking about us.

The top of the hour take on today tells me a few million people must live elsewhere, most likely forever, that the cost of gas is so high it is no longer cost efficient for minimum wage workers to work unless they bike or bus. The cost of food will rise, as well as the price of everything trucked, shipped, or flown to somewhere else to consume.

Covid is still killing people, and controversy concerning restrictions consumes organizational meetings and town hall events. Two people were shot and killed in Worcester, Massachusetts, last night, and those late souls were just two of two hundred and seventy others in the last twenty-four hours.

The view from this wilderness is discouraging.

So many people talk about sanctions and retaliation, about cyberattacks, about drone warfare, about soldiers looting and soldiers who have no idea what they’re doing there to begin with. So many people talk about inflation and recession, about climate change and burning swatches of America.

The headlines have gone bold on a daily basis, largest type of the fattest font, that bold type normally reserved for assassinations and declarations of war, set aside until Dewey Defeats Truman, is constant, morning edition, afternoon edition, online version, all full bold above the fold in your face headlines about how many dead, how many fleeing, how many floundering in some nether land on their way to Poland or Germany or Alabama or anywhere that’s somewhere else. Headlines about a leader misleading his nation, another leader leading by example, and a little girl singing a little girl song in a shelter. She holds a kitten.

Some people will believe anything. Some people need to believe in something. Some people believe that if you believe you’ll be fine.

This is not how I wanted my fourth quarter to start. It’s been a good game, mostly. I’ve had some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime plays, well more than once, but I’ve fumbled as well, threw my share of interceptions. But it’s been amazing. I trained across two continents; I walked across a country; I reconnected, resigned, regrouped, then remembered what it was I wanted out of life to begin with. And it’s not to listen to so many people with no expertise decide exactly what’s wrong and who caused it; it’s not to listen to so many people bend toward the fight instead of negotiation, lean toward aggression instead of forgiveness. This is not how I want the fourth quarter to play out. Clearly I have more comforts than the vast majority of this world; I’m not “sitting on the cold floor of a train station” as some random posts remind me, insisting that since I’m not destitute and homeless I should shut up. I agree completely with this sentiment; I’ve no reason to complain. But this isn’t about empathy; this is about my inability to absorb anymore disappointment with a species with such capabilities as to create miracles on a daily basis yet falling faster into a vacuum of violence from which it doesn’t seem possible anymore to escape.

I’ve tried switching my meds, I’ve tried exercise and eating differently, I’ve tried laced lollipops and tiny bottles of Baileys.

I’ve tried. But still, I need to try something else. So I remember that...

when you walk five hundred miles, you note each step, your life slows to some equatorial pace, and you can feel the air move around you, the subtle brush and lift of a soft breeze come across a field. Every day is an eternity, each moment you find yourself exactly where you should be with whom you should be with. Each person crosses your path for a reason, and each reason evaporates with the next step, like a constant stream of rebirths, an endless loop of beginnings.

This is how I escape the persistent pounding of chatter, the numbing talk shows filled with nothing more than speculations. This is how I keep from falling: I wonder, would anyone notice if I just walked away, headed south along the coast, hitchhiked, bussed, trained, away from here? Would anyone notice if I ended up in Pied de Port, France, looking out toward the Napoleon Pass across into Spain, out of reach of the rising tide of so many people?

I’d like to believe that the view from this wilderness is always optimistic, and so many people have commented on the beauty of this wilderness, the sunrises and nightfalls, the slow glow of dawn sweeping gently across the bay and stealing the day, but the true wilderness that must be explored is within, always first and last the wilderness within, and that is very difficult to do with so many people talking about so many people dying.

I wish that I could slow the whole thing down. The world is changing again, and it’s not looking like a strong narrative is headed this way, but there are still so many people I want to spend time with, so many places I’d like to see.

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