We Must Journey, We Know Not Where

As promised, this is the next bit of my thinking on the theme of journeying and pilgrimage. I first mentioned the idea of a person feeling the need to journey, although not being sure where their destination lay as a sort of aside comment. I was thinking mainly of my exploring the two claimants of Traditional Christianity, Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Sometimes I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but I know that this is a journey I must take.

But, given a couple of days reflection after a request for further elucidation, I find that this little aside comment is much deeper than just my personal exploration. In fact the theme of a necessary journey with an unsure destination is deeply woven into the human consciousness. It appears in myths throughout very different cultures. It appears in our literature and our films.

Frodo Baggins sets out from his door, knowing that he must go to Mount Doom but not knowing the way or where his path leads him after that. Ruth, out of devotion to her mother-in-law, follows Naomi to a strange land and an uncertain future. Dante Alighieri finds himself lost midway through his life and unsure of his destination, but sure that his way lies forward. Anodos from George MacDonald’s Phantastes longs for the land of Faerie but does not know where his steps will take him or how his life will change.

I could go on, but I’m sure everyone reading this can think of dozens of examples off the top of their head.

So does this simply mean that my small corner of this larger myth is merely a result of me having absorbed far too much literature and far too many films? Am I just disconnected from the reality of normal life where nothing is amazing or fantastical and there’s just the daily grind? Perhaps some people would say that. If they were, like, a chartered accountant in a Monty Python sketch or something.

It’s kind of a “chicken or the egg” question. What came first, the myth or the experience that created the myth? Am I simply being influenced by this myth, or is this myth a reflection of something that so many people have experienced that it has attained mythic status?

Into this dilemma steps CS Lewis. CS Lewis did not see myth as if it were some piece of fiction meant simply to entertain children. Myth is something greater. It reflects something we feel to be inherently true regardless of whether it is actually factual or not. GK Chesterton once said that fairy tales were true not because they said there were dragons, but because they said that dragons could be defeated. With this perception CS Lewis referred to Jesus as “the myth made Man.” That is, a deep truth that various peoples and cultures describe in various stories, which also became fact in the person of Jesus.

That’s the thing about believing Christianity is the Truth. If myths also reflect some aspect of Truth, then these myths find their completeness in Christianity. Even within Christianity there is the journey toward what is variously described as completeness, perfection, or theosis.

This is why the protagonist of the journey feels that s/he must travel. They, like so many of us, are on a search for truth. Yet, at the beginning of the story they have maybe only some small part of the Truth. Often they aren’t even sure where their completeness is to be found. Something even beyond the immediate circumstances compels them out of their comfort zone and onto a journey of discovery. Frodo Baggins wants good to conquer evil. Ruth wants love to conquer tribal and national commitments. Dante wants to find a way out of his wilderness. Anodos simply knows that there must be something more than what he’s experienced.

“I will take the ring, though I do not know the way.”

“Your people will be my people, your god will be my god.”

“I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I lost the path that does not stray.”

“There must be a way into Faerie Land somehow, if only we could find it.”


~ by crossingthebosporus on August 16, 2012.

3 Responses to “We Must Journey, We Know Not Where”

  1. A moving and powerful post my friend. Yes, we must travel, though we do not know the way. But we do know The Way, the Truth and the Life, and if we will humble ourselves and put aside for a while the devices and desires of our own hearts and hearken unto Him, then all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

  2. Excellent post. I’ll have to give my own thoughts later.

  3. […] following is a more "formal" post inspired from crossingthebosporus Pilgrim's Progress? and We Must Journey, but also mainly taken from Josef Pieper. In Catholic philosophy and theology there is an […]

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