Today I am blessed with a quiet morning. Our back garden has awakened with birdsong and a scrub jay energetically splashing in a hollowed out rock (our birdbath). Not much else, just the stillness. This moment of quietude has brought me back to one of my favorite books, Thomas Merton’s, No Man is an Island. This small book is packed with with great wisdom for the seeker. It never fails to reorient my wayward spirit. Today as I leafed lazily through the pages something caught my eye.
He states, “It is useless to try and make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything that we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity….We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition. It is only when we are detached from ourselves that we can be at peace with ourselves.”
We seem to strive too hard to be special, to be unique as if being ordinary is a curse to be avoided, even a failure. Yet, it is in our ordinariness that grace is found. Just imagine what stress we create when we can only define ourselves, and our reason for being, through our accomplishments and our experiences. We create an insatiable hunger, a need for ever grander adventures, ever more distant pursuits. This spawns a restlessness that in the end steals our peace instead of granting it. I have to be careful here because walking various camino paths could also be construed as far flung grand adventures. However, in my mind, it is the intention that defines the journey. If I were to surrender to a need for recognition as a driving force behind going on pilgrimage, then I guess it would not be much of a pilgrimage. It would simply be an experience, an event, something to be checked off on a never ending to do list. But, that is not what brings Robin and I back to the Camino time and time again. It is the faith journey and all that it entails that allows us to accept, even desire, the challenges of the pilgrim road. As we move along these paths we are discovering ever more the joy of the journey Home. No one is so blessed that faith simply cleaves to their souls, like a barnacle to a rock. It requires uncharacteristic humility, and a willingness to let go of what we have been conditioned to pursue, that finally creates the smallest fissures through which God’s light can finally shine.
Merton continues, “It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intentions. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace. But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all.”
No, it is not an easy path, but it is an incredible journey. Peace be with you.