Journeying

And once again it’s nice to be back from a brief trip, although also bittersweet because I tend not to have enough time to catch up on everything that I missed.

I can understand why many people tend to dismiss religion wholesale by saying: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” I love traveling. At least I love traveling when flying is not included because I do not love airsickness. Nor do I particularly enjoy traffic, buying gas, or creating pollution to get to a destination. But I do love traveling. I suppose it’s just that I would prefer it if we could do it all by foot and/or bicycle.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make before I distracted myself with rambling is that I can understand those who wax philosophic over how great the journey is over the destination. Perhaps the destination has been over-hyped and so it’s always a letdown. Perhaps it’s the promise of opportunity that journeys rather than destinations hold. I get all that. But then again, if there’s no destination then what’s the point? It’s not a journey then, merely aimless wandering.

(Of course if one is unsure of the destination, but is sure that they must journey then that is something rather different.)

I think the destination makes the journey worthwhile and that is precisely why I love traveling. I look forward the new adventure of discovery at the destination, but I also look forward to having a rest. I look forward to a time of stillness and perhaps an experience of re-orienting my perspective.

Orthodoxy (and Catholicism) recognize the importance of journeys, traveling, and pilgrimage. It was the structure of a very famous work of Russian devotion and theology titled The Way of the Pilgrim. In fact, given our increasingly interconnected world, I’m rather surprised that it’s not a more popular topic theologically. Immigrants and migrants tend to exist on the margins of our societies. They are more often seen as nuisances, outsiders, even threats to the perceived homogeneity of “our” culture.

The perception of migrants in western culture is decidedly at odds with how the Bible views migrants. The Old Testament warns the community of Israel to treat them as if they were citizens because the Hebrews were also once foreigners and wanderers. I just read an article from a Methodist missions magazine that mentioned African immigrants and missionaries coming to Europe and America. Often Europeans and Americans see such immigrants in a negative light, but the African missionaries in particular had a fascinating perspective. They viewed themselves as helping to “rejuvenate” the Church, and through the Church, the wider culture.

Now of course you can criticize that perspective and I’m sure many will, especially if they hold to ideas of cultural superiority. But, if you let it, it can certainly re-orient your perspective. It certainly reconnects the theme of traveling to the Tradition of the Church for me. Especially as I am both physically an immigrant and also spiritually an immigrant into the depths of Tradition.

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~ by crossingthebosporus on August 14, 2012.

4 Responses to “Journeying”

  1. We are all, my friend, strangers in this world, and we should give each other a big welcome as pilgrims all 🙂 Wonderful post to have you back with – I’ve missed you 🙂

  2. I’m a bit unsettled that the pilgrim status of man hasn’t been written on thoroughly theologically. I see it in bits and pieces throughout Catholic philosophy, but never as a devoted theme. I’ve been half tempted to give a go at a formal discussion on it.

    “Of course if one is unsure of the destination, but is sure that they must journey then that is something rather different.”

    Sounds like you want to say more on this lol I hope you do.

    • I was thinking of my feeling that I must reconnect with the Great Tradition, but being unsure as to whether it’s Orthodoxy or Catholicism. But that might be a good idea to expand on that with a blogpost.
      The only sources I can think of about the theme of our pilgrim status are the Russian devotional work I mentioned and Stanley Hauerwas’ book “Resident Aliens.” I suppose you could also toss Dante’s “Divina Commedia” into the mix and perhaps “The Canterbury Tales” to some extent.
      But I’d certainly be interested to see your take on the theme. So perhaps we both have our “homework” ahead 😉

      • Jacques Maritain and Josef Pieper (Especially in J.P.’s “On Hope”) would be some good formal readings on the pilgrim status [status viatoris], but it’s mostly sprinkled throughout their works (Although I haven’t read everything they have, so there could be a devoted chapter somewhere…).

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