Consecutive Days Riding: 20 Consecutive Days Blogging: 21
Today’s Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 197
You will notice that our map is back! As I mentioned in yesterday’s Blog I had climbed on the bike for the last five days and just rode where the road took me. By my calculations we travelled 60 miles and hit the “end of the road” at Lake Ingraham on the far western edge of the Everglades National Park! So for the next several days we will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature in one of our National Parks as we ride back toward the populated East Coast of Florida.
What’s with the title of today’s Blog? I have been collecting any material I can find on Pilgrimages, the location of sites and the process of the journey. For the next several days I want to share with you some of the thoughts of Jennifer Westwood who authored a book entitled: Sacred Journeys: An Illustrated Guide to Pilgrimages Around the World.
She describes various stages that a Pilgrim goes through in the process of a Pilgrimage Journey. The first of these is termed: The Longing. I remember reading a newspaper account some years ago of the “Kumbha Mela,” a sacred pilgrimage in India that takes place once every twelve years, it was reported that over 90 Million people were expected to visit the sacred river Ganges within the seven day festival! Westwood notes that for the massive numbers of individuals who undertake such journeys, and we find them in all faiths, are driven by an inborn yearning for an encounter with the divine. She notes that “this yearning is compounded by the desire to reverence a deity in its own special place and the hope of persuading it to pay heed to individual prayer.”
Westwood believes that “we are from the moment we are born to the moment we die, engaged in a search for meaning. Pilgrimage to a special place, where the divine pierces through the mundane, holds out the promise of help and comfort in this world, and of a living encounter with deity.” So The Place or Site of the pilgrimage is important, but once again may represent a multitude of different experiences. This place may exist in the natural world or only in the heart of the pilgrim; it may represent a place build for religious purposes (temple) or a place of natural beauty. It may have a long history, or be a place known to few. Westwood notes: “The place is part of the desire.”
Pilgrimages often dramatize our journeys through life. We often undertake them out of a sense of need for something we have lost or seek to achieve. Westwood calls this The Prayer, and notes “there is seemingly no limit to the range of desires of the human heart laid bare before deity.” These include a desire for health, for wealth, for protection from harm, for guidance, and to forgive their sins. Sometimes a pilgrim’s prayers evoke empathy in others, while some present us with paradoxical conflict. Like the narcotraficantes of Mexico who are generous at their shrine asking for blessings of their cocaine harvest and bullets!
Westwood notes that “many seekers see their attempt to find an ideal to live by (something to give their life meaning) in terms of a Journey.” Some join the pilgrimages of the world religions to experience community, a spiritual solidarity. Others devise their own sacred journeys, including journeys of remembrance (to distant graves of loved ones). Anthropologist Alan Morinis wrote that the term “pilgrimage” can be put to use “wherever journeying and some embodiment of the ideal intersect!” This means that all of the diverse strands of pilgrimage displayed around the world and throughout time give us something to work with when seeking for the focus and intent of our own journey. I will leave you today with the closing paragraph from Westwood’s section on longing”
“Essentially all pilgrims are seeking to access, by way of a significant site, a spiritual reservoir charged in the past and constantly refilled. For the pilgrim not only takes but gives, drawing spiritual sustenance and at the same time by an act of faith in the place of pilgrimage replenishing the never-failing spring. To be a pilgrim is not to perform an individual act of devotion, but to engage in humankind’s dialogue with the divine: not in time, but eternity.”
A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.