A pilgrimage inside of a pilgrimage
I just wrapped up a three-day silent retreat in the Ozarks. As I prepared for a period without technology or interaction with people, I began collecting several thing to reflect on while in this contemplative and quiet period (e.g. meditation tapes and books). The book I ended up starting and finishing before the retreat was over was Rebirth by Kamal Ravikant. This was my first experience with the author but was familiar with him prior by-way-of his brother Naval, who I’ve heard interviewed by Tim Ferriss. He has mentioned Kamal on several other occasions including one where Ferriss was at a bit of an inflection point in his career deciding what to do and how to focus. Kamal asked Tim a question I have often since pondered, “what would people miss most about you if you stopped doing?” In a world where we are often pulled or are guilty of sending ourselves in too many directions, I think a question like this can help us focus and identify where and how we create value. But I digress.
Rebirth is an honest and beautiful tale of a hard fought self-discovery battle. After his father’s death, who Ravikant was estranged from due to an abusive past, Kamal carries out a dying wish from his father, casting his ashes into the Ganges river. But with this in his rearview, he is now emotionally lost in a country his ancestors are from that he has never known.
While conversing with an Italian tourist, he learns about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an ancient and famous pilgrimage in Spain. With no immediate future plans other than to get away from the pain and conflict he is feeling, Ravikant decides to head that way. When he arrives, he begins to grasp just how deep this pilgrimage’s history runs. He meets people who have trekked the roughly 500 mile route across Spain multiple times, people who have been planning this for years and those who felt called. Ravikant is there by happenstance and lacking quite a bit of the proper gear. His plan is to stick it out for a week and then head home to New York.
But as is often said, “its about the journey, not the destination”. Before he even begins the trek and throughout the journey, he meets people from all over the world who impact him. The wisdom and warmth imparted to him by others is heartwarming and inspiring.
As I sat on a dock overlooking a lake reading this book in the first hours of a brief contemplative journey of my own, the gravity of Ravikant’s pilgrimage began to fester. What journey or trek might I wish to undertake? Would this be one of simply walking or heading to see and experience something? Earlier this year I was on a date with a girl who was an accomplished tango dancer. Months prior she had traveled to Argentina, the birthplace of tango, to dance and commune with people who love what she loves. Finding that kind of community felt energizing to me then and now.
It may be that I should keep my eye out for the right conference or workshop. But in my experience, they often do not have the same history and entrenched community built around them as she found in Buenos Aires. Another type of pilgrimage that has come to me is one into my own history. The writer Andrew Solomon wrote in Far & Away that a mantra of his mother’s was, “travel to a place as if you will return”.
How might a place I visited 15 or 20 years ago impact me to see today? Some ideas are beginning to emerge. We’ll see what comes of it.
Go Forth Boldly