Lessons Learnt From The Camino

On Sunday morning I got to thinking (once more) about what I learnt from my first Camino. At the same time, I asked myself if I was remembering what I had learnt. Unfortunately, I realised that I was not. Here are the lessons that came to mine:

  1. Appreciate water, and drink it regularly
    This is hard: day-to-day how does one truly appreciate a thing? It’s easy with a person – you show them kindness, etc – but with a thing?
    As for drinking water regularly, I know that I don’t do that. For several weeks now, I have been meaning to look on-line to see how much I am supposed to drink per day but have not yet done so. I have in the past, only to forget the information and drink less.
  2. Eat healthily
    I would say that my diet isn’t too bad, but it still involves regular amounts of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. They need to either stop or at least slow down until I get a sense of balance in my diet.
  3. So Far As You Are Able, Look After Your Body
    I have failed badly in this. In May 2018 I developed a muscle complaint in my right thigh that my doctor suggested I go to physiotherapy for. He gave me the requisite form to fill out and send off but I didn’t do anything about it: I didn’t want to take the time off work. As a result, the complaint got worse. It didn’t stop me from walking the Camino but it did make me need Ibuprofen on a pretty regular basis and it did make trekking polls a fairly essential part of my kit. When I got home from the Camino, I should have sent the form off then but still didn’t for the same reason as before. I am only now doing something about it. Yesterday, I sent the form away. The physio’ will be on the NHS so I will have to wait a while for a response but hopefully they will be able to alleviate the problem if not cure it. After nearly two years of doing nothing I have to admit that I just don’t feel deserving of a cure.
  4. Travel Lightly
    This has multiple meanings.
    On a day-to-day basis it means keep as clean a desk as possible, throw away any paperwork you don’t need, get rid of any possessions – whether it is tech, books, or anything else – that you don’t need. All this is important as I am a bit of a hoarder. I do try to be tidy but so far it is more of an on-off thing than a permanently on, if you see what I mean.
    Travel Lightly also has a deeper meaning, for example, don’t let yourself be attached to material possessions, don’t buy anything except for what you really need (whether on account of beauty or utility or anything in between). As with the day-to-day meaning, I currently get rid of what I don’t need on an on-off basis. In the depths of my heart, I love what I have too much. I know this to be true because whenever I am ill and start thinking about worse case scenarios I am sad at what I will lose by dying. A Christian who is truly aligned to God should not be thinking in this way.
  5. Be Prepared to Make New Friends
    Since coming home from Santiago I have not made any real effort to make new friends. I definitely need to think about this more and then come to a conclusion and then act upon it. But why must I make new friends? That’s a good question with lots of answers, one of which is because I am not, and don’t want to be, a recluse.

So, five lessons learnt from the Camino. What next? First of all, don’t be surprised if I come back to this subject in another post – especially if I think of more lessons. In the meantime, I am going to use this post as an opportunity to ask myself how I can implement the ones above. For example, I have just looked up how much water should one drink per day. The website said two litres (three pints) so that’s what I am going to try and do. What about the other lessons? Let’s see.

The Rise of Skywalker

After writing this post, I wasn’t going to go and see The Rise of Skywalker but in the end I decided ‘Why not? It’s the last episode of the Star Wars saga (The Skywalker part of it, anyway) so let’s give it a go’.

I took my seat in the cinema and ~ well, I have to say that while I was in the cinema, I did enjoy myself. The action moved at a breathless pace and it was good seeing Rey and the gang (that sounds like an 80s band, doesn’t it!) one last time. The special effects were top notch, light sabre duels will never disappoint, and there were some funny and tender moments to dwell in.

Unfortunately, the film is a sugar rush movie; there is very little in it that is truly nutritious.

What do I mean by this?

Well, as I said, the action moves at a breathless pace. And it keeps moving. It never stops: one daring exploit after another; one explosion after another; one planet, one ship, one fight after another. The film never pauses to catch its breath, or to let its characters develop. The best films combine action and character. The Rise of Skywalker didn’t. I wouldn’t say that the characters existed simply to service the action – the film wasn’t that bad – but they were definitely subservient to it.

For me, character development provides the nutrition of a film because it’s through them that we grow. Like sweets, explosions are great fun – very addictive in their way – but you don’t learn about the human condition through them. Hence, The Rise of Skywalker‘s sugary nature.

The Rise of Skywalker would have been a superb film if its director J. J. Abrams had learnt from The Bourne Ultimatum. There, Paul Greengrass provides a masterclass on how to combine action and character. He does this simply by paying attention to his script to make sure the two are in alignment. Abrams, by contrast, seems to have said, ‘we start at A and end at Z; how do we get there in the loudest way possible?’.

Having said all that, The Rise of Skywalker is the first of the three sequel trilogy films that I would be prepared to buy and put in my DVD library. For all its flaws, something in the film worked and I would like to watch it again to try and uncover what that something is. Plus, however much I like the film or not, Star Wars IX is, by virtue of being the last part of the Skywalker saga, a culturally significant film that anyone who likes film and science fiction ought to own.

What next? Well, as for me, I simply move on. As per my last post (link above), The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t for me, and that’s fine: Deo Gratias, I stopped hating the sequel trilogy last year. I won’t move on very far, though: I still enjoy reading about the Star Wars universe, and especially seeing the memes created around them. There are a lot of super talented people out there.

  • For another take on The Rise of Skywalker, visit my friend John’s blog and read his first class review here

Camino 2: Taking a Dog

My walking companion for Camino 2 would like to bring her dog. Can it be done? Is it practicable? To find out, I turned to the Camino Pilgrim Discussion Group on Facebook, of which I am a member. Heres my post,

I was wondering if anyone here has walked the Camino Frances with a dog and if so what advice you would give to anyone else contemplating doing the same. 

Alternatively, even if you haven’t, what advice would you give/books about the subject you would recommend.

Over the next 24 hours or so I received 41 responses. The vast majority of them were negative: don’t take your dog at all; it’s too hard for them. A handful were neutral about the matter and another handful offered useful advice about what to do if you do take a dog. I have screen shotted those replies to send to my friend.

As the replies came back and the negative responses piled up, my friend suggested that if the Francés is too difficult perhaps we could walk the Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia-Santiago route. That would take about ten days and allow for shorter and slower days – ideal for four paws, and, no doubt, two legs as well.

If we do decide to walk from Santiago to the sea and back again does this mean that a second Camino Francés is out of the question? I can’t speak for my friend, but I would still like to walk that route again. Maybe it will be possible to do both routes, me leaving SJPdP and joining my friend in Santiago or else me doing the Camino Francés at a later date. We’ll see; we’re at such an early stage of planning that neither may happen.

If you are thinking about walking the Camino with a dog, here are four links that I was given that might be useful:

Today, I started the journey towards Camino 2

I don’t know when this journey will end. I don’t even know if it will end. I’m setting out, anyway, in the hope that one day between now and who knows when, I will be fit enough and have enough money to set out from St. Jean Pied de Port to walk the Camino Francés for a second time.

I will update this blog every time I take another step towards my second Camino. Don’t hold your breath, though, for the updates will for a while be few and far between.

So, you may ask, what happened today to start the journey? Well, I started a new job.

Hold on, didn’t you start a new job back in June? Wasn’t that the start of C-2? No. Even though I knew before finishing my first Camino that I wanted to walk another one I didn’t start the June role thinking ‘This is the beginning of the journey towards Camino 2’. Back then, Camino 2 was just an aspiration. As of today, it is a firm intention.

Okay, so what are you doing starting another new job? Ah. Well, the June one was a temp position. This one, as it happens, is a permanent post.

That’s good news. It shouldn’t be too hard to save up the necessary money. Indeed. Except, it is part-time so saving up will not be easy. Especially since my bank account is currently deep in the red.

But you have job security. Did I mention that I will be freelancing? If they don’t like me…

The good news is the job is in social media, which I have wanted to work in for a long time. I started the job today and can’t wait to get stuck in.

When will Camino 2 happen? I said above ‘who knows when’ and meant it. I don’t know. It quite possibly won’t happen. I have a feeling, though, it will take an extraordinary financial turnaround for it to do so. And as it happens, that fills me with comfort: A week ago, I had no job and nothing in the offing. Today, I have a new job. The job was confirmed yesterday, just hours after I had given away all the money in my coat pocket. Two extraordinary turnarounds. If those two, why not more?

Anyway, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to do as well as I can to save up and stay fit and if the good Lord wants me to set off across the Pyrenees, whether via the Napoleon or Valcarlos route, He will.

Buen Camino!

The Aid of Illness

In my last post, I said that this general election campaign is both interesting and anxiety inducing. Despite the former and because of the latter, I have steered clear of it on social media as much as possible.

Is it good to run away from one’s anxieties? Wouldn’t it be better to face them down? I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t have an answer to that. I imagine, though, that the answer is Yes, one should face them them because only that way lies freedom.

However, if that is to be done, surely one needs to confront one’s anxieties in a way that is positive: it’s no good facing what you hate or fear with that hate and fear. Freedom doesn’t lie that way, only confrontation and war, which perpetuates and escalates the problem.

So, what is to be done? I’m a Christian so my view is that my anxiety, and the hate and fear that it induces, needs to be washed away with love. How? With prayer. But also, attentiveness; attentiveness to the uselessness of anger.

It’s one thing to know that anger (the negative kind; I’m not talking about righteous indignation here) is useless but how does one interiorise it?

I think the best way is to meditate on it, to find where it exists within oneself and drive it out by the practice of love. Another way, though, and a harder way that I would not wish on anyone, is through illness.

Last week, I woke up with a need to visit my G.P. As it turned out, I wasn’t seriously ill but I didn’t know this at the time, and as a result, I was in a state of discomfort and worried.

While I was in this state, my anxiety about the general election fell away. It seemed so much stuff and nonsense, a complete waste of energy and life.

It felt bad to realise I had taken such a wrong path, but it was also a blessing, for now I could set about finding the right one. Having said that, I can’t help but look back on that morning, ten days ago, and wonder Why did it take a little existential crisis for the truth to come out?

I guess I am just spiritually immature. At least I know better, now; at least I have a chance to find the right path again. I hope I do so before the memory of what happened fades away. You see, this isn’t the first time I have had this realisation. It has happened before – yes, when I was unwell – and ultimately, nothing changed.

How to find the right path? Well, I certainly need to go back to yesterday’s post: prayer.

As I write these words

we are just two weeks away from polling day in the 2019 General Election. Will Boris Johnson win an outright majority for the Conservative Party or will Jeremy Corbyn win the day for Labour? Or will voters be split down the middle once more and return a hung Parliament?

For me, the election campaign has been an interesting but anxious time. It’s been interesting in the way that election campaigns always are. But it has, and is, anxiety-inducing because of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to the far-left of the Labour Party, and the thought of that faction holding the keys to Downing Street is, to me, a detestable one. This has been compounded by Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

Right now, the polls are suggesting that the Conservatives will not only win the election but will do so with an outright majority. I would say good except that I am a very ‘wet’ Tory who does not believe that Boris Johnson is fit to be Prime Minister. He is lucky to have Corbyn as his opponent, otherwise I would be tempted to sit this election out.

What to do about it all? Practically speaking, one can only cast one’s vote and hope for the best. In my case, I can only do the latter: Jeremy Corbyn is my MP and has such a huge majority that my vote will not count a jot.

As a Christian, though, I can – and must – do something else:pray: pray for Boris Johnson, pray for Jeremy Corbyn, pray for all politicians. And pray hard. For the forgiveness of their sins (as well as mine, of course). For their wisdom. Especially their wisdom.

I wish there was a theology of election campaigns, spiritual guidance for how to not only survive election campaigns but turn one’s response to them to good. I imagine, though, the guidance would boil down to one thing: prayer.

I wish we had a theology of election results as well. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (whether in a Labour majority or minority government) we will have a leader who has his plus points but also negatives – some of them profoundly bad. For the next four or five years, he will be on our TV screens and computer monitors daily. He will need prayers. Lot’s of.

And so will I. Politics is a very turbulent business and it sometimes feels like social media puts us, the voters, into the eye of the storm. Where we stand, all may be calm, but we see the savage conditions around us and can only be adversely affected by them. The answer, of course, is if gets like that, then quit. But there is so much that is good about social media that it can make quitting a hard thing to do. And why should I quit when it is other people causing the problem? Sometimes, though, hard decisions simply have to be taken. In the meantime:-

This is my Theology of Election Campaigns and Results

  • Prayer for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
  • ~ for the forgiveness of their sins and wisdom; I dislike Corbyn most so an especial amount of prayer for him
  • Prayer for myself
    ~ for the forgiveness of my sins and the grace to endure
  • Prayer for the new government
    ~ for its wisdom
  • An active determination to get angry at those in politics whom I do not like
  • Prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament wherever possible
  • Prayer at Mass
  • In all social media interactions, be positive; don’t hate. Remember: those I dislike are humans, too; they deserve the dignity of the children of God. That’s a bare minimum

A Costly Ambiguity

So, a couple of days ago, someone stole the ‘Mother Earth’ statues used in the opening ceremony of the Pan-Amazon Synod at the Vatican and threw them into the Tiber River.

If nothing else, whoever did this has a good sense of the historical.

But were their actions right?

If the statues were actual idols then I’m only sorry that the thieves didn’t burn them first before scattering the ashes across the Tiber.

However, if the statues were representations of Our Lady then what happened was an act of desecration.

If they represented a thing or an idea, such as life, fertility or motherhood, etc, then they should have been let be. Having them in a church wasn’t ideal but they are not idols and, to be honest, we accept the presence of worse things in our churches.

So many ifs, and that’s the problem. All this could have been avoided if those behind the Pan-Amazon Synod had explained clearly what exactly the statues were meant to represent. They didn’t, and so naturally some people applied the worst possible meaning to them.

Responsibility for the statues’ destruction lies with the thieves, but they were helped along the way by the either deliberate or accidental (in)actions of others.

  • For footage of the statues’ theft, see the Catholic Herald website here