March 22, 2004

Focal Points of the Camino - Other People

There are three focal points that converge on the Camino and which make this not only an outer journey, but also a deep inner experience: other people, ourselves, and God.

This makes the Jacobean route a special time and place and helps us to open up to the Mystery.

Other People

Let us start with the first focal point, other people. Some inner experiences come from our personal encounter with other pilgrims. It is not that pilgrims are special people, but that the conditions in which we interact with them allow us to communicate in a very personal way and let us experience generosity, mutual support, and solidarity with less effort. In our society there are new forms of poverty, reducing humans to a purely biological dimension, losing our great treasure, God, and putting others in danger when we stop being brothers and become competitors. To be companions, we have to see one another at the same level, and see that we are in the same situation, in a common space. The Camino de Santiago makes this equality possible. Precisely because others are not our rivals, we are not afraid to open up. We realize that others understand what we are talking about even though our lives and experiences are very different. And there is something essential that joins us together: we have set out on the road. Sometimes the fact that we do not know others allows us to trust in them and we open up because we need to rely on someone else. Others do not scare me because they are like me. The common physical feeling of exhaustion all connects me to others. We are all the same; we all need one another. In this humble recognition of our limited condition no on dominates or is dominated because we are essentially human. We are there, without the mask that we usually wear in life, wanting to be what we are not. The pilgrim learns to go through life with his face uncovered because he is not afraid to say that he has blisters, is tired, or is hungry.

There is something else that happens with others on the Camino. Something happens that pilgrims do not know how to express. They cannot say what it is, or how it happens (they call it coincidence, luck, destiny, miracle, or providence), and they experience the love of God, of others, of an old lady that offers them a glass of water at just the right moment, the gardener that gives them apples, the vinegrower that invites them to a glass of wine in his cellar, or the village man that yells at the top of his lungs because the pilgrim has taken the wrong road and walks with him a while, or the piece of sausage and bread given by the solitary and quiet pilgrim who you could not understand because you did not speak his language.

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