I have a good friend who asked a great question, “I’m curious about how a 21st century man will create pilgrimage for himself?” She went on to ask about phones, emails, wearing a watch, and even using a speedometer/odometer. My favorite remark of hers was, “How will you silence US?”
My friend was definitely on to something. If I simply left home but felt the pressure and the need to keep up with all of my commitments and relationships then it wouldn’t be much of a pilgrimage. It would be like one of those unsuccessful vacations where you leave, but have to check your email every hour. It would be my same life, just drug along behind the bike. That sounds like work!
This pilgrimage is going to take some discipline on my part. I am taking a Netbook (pint-sized laptop) and I will have a cell phone. The commitment I have made to those closest to me (my “peeps” as my kids say) is that I will communicate enough for them to know that I am safe. Beyond that I intend to let the pacing and the yearnings of my soul guide me. I don’t know yet whether I will want a full ten weeks of emotional solitude. I don’t know if I will start with solitude the first weeks and then slowly build connection back in later in the trip. I don’t know if I will develop a daily rhythm where I settle into a period of solitude while on the bike and look forward to connecting with my “peeps” in the evening.
In this sense, this is truly an emotional pilgrimage. There are some things I need to discover about myself. I do know that if I feel compelled to respond to friend’s emails I will fall back into patterns of meeting other’s expectations of me rather than discovering what I want for myself. My friend asks, “How will you silence us?” I think what this intentional pilgrimage provides is a way to say, “I need to time to be with Brian without worrying about others feeling abandoned or neglected.” As a pastor I struggle with that. My identity is built on being able to intuitively know another person’s needs and address them before they even know what they need themselves. It’s a great skill! It also has hidden costs.
So why then do I have a cell phone and a computer along for the ride? If I need the solitude so badly why would I jeopardize that with convenient gadgets? The real purpose for the cell phone and computer is not so that I stay connected; it is to share the experience of the journey along the way. It is my way of going out into the wilderness and letting others peer into the window of this experience. But, my friend is right. In this 21st century there isn’t much wilderness left if we can connect to each other with the push of a button.
She asks, “How will you silence us?” I respond, “I am going to have to remind myself over and over again that this is MY pilgrimage. This is about MY growth. This is about MY connection and relationship with God. This is about MY experience of the sacred.”
I can’t silence the world in this 21st century environment. But, I can trust that the world won’t fall apart if I bow out for just ten short weeks.