Field Notes: Walking in a World | Lifestyles

LIZA FIELD special for the Roanoke Times

“Overcoming anger with peace.”

“In other countries, I can go as a tourist, but in India, I come as a pilgrim.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., February 1959

As the daylight lengthens and the winter sunset lingers in fierce ruby ​​fire, the ancient season of pilgrimage arrives.

Cold, uncomfortable, non-touristy and dreary, the old human journey between earth and sky still beckons in the spirit.

In Georgia, some intrepid hikers have already made their way to the Cold Blue Mountains, Bare Trees, Dark Nights, and North Star on the Appalachian Trail.

They think they walk for months in the unexpected – beauty, trouble and all weather – searching through hardship and uncertainty for something deeper than safety.

Such pilgrims want greater connectivity, with all beings, than their usual comfortable compartments allow. A peace and goodwill to the entire cosmos, one hiker told me (on Catawba Mountain last spring as we ate my bag of raisins), is the lightest food you can carry.

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won, but aLongtime Franciscan monk Richard Rohr sees human life as a pilgrimage, a journey of peacemaking, for anyone willing to renounce dualism and unknowing. This non-dualism is in fact the key, according to Rohr, to non-violence, and non-violence is now vital for human survival and a biosphere that sustains life.

“The dualistic spirit is always violent,” Rohr said during a talk at Notre Dame’s Inspired Leadership Initiative, in November 2021. “Look at our country. Look at our politics.

Rohr finds dualism especially boring in religious people who can’t stand ambiguity or doubt. “I hate to say it, but sometimes the people I least want to be with are religious people. They seem to have doctorates in certainty. Doctorates in “I know”. Not very friendly people, really, ”he regretted.

Jesus himself (like the Buddha and a Hebrew prophet by the name of “Isaiah” and Socrates of Athens), seemed to advocate courageous, merciful, and generous kindness. Thus, Rohr perceives that our current warlike and politico-religious dualism “tells me that the church has not done its job”. He said, “We haven’t taught the kind of spirit that can even understand nonviolence, let alone the Sermon on the Mount.”

Greater awareness as an open-air pilgrim — comfortable in a universe full of paradoxes and mysteries — is imperative in this uncertain time on Earth, according to Rohr. He recommends “an attitude of wonder, reverence and faith” and suggests to those who pray: “Ask God to take away your sophistication and cynicism.” He recommends getting rid of “the restless and anxious heart of the tourist, who always needs to find the new, the most, the curious. Identify yourself as a pilgrim.

On my wayAt this wintery time of year in 1959, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, traveled six days in inclement weather to reach India, to express their reverence and deep gratitude for King’s mentor and beloved ruler of India. , Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi’s peaceful, determined and successful marches to liberate India from British rule had inspired the young king when he was just a young seminary student. He saw the power of non-retaliation, mercy for oppressed and oppressor alike, and resolute goodwill as a path to freedom for mankind.

Gandhi had died 11 years earlier (January 30, 1948), murdered by a fellow Hindu who, eager for reprisals against Muslims, resented Gandhi’s non-dualistic goodwill. Gandhi urged to welcome Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, people of any religion or no religion, and so was shot – as King put it – like Lincoln, “for committing the crime of wanting heal the wounds of a divided nation”.

Thus, King had never met his heroic mentor, but had met those who had worked with him and felt his effects. He also left a recorded speech in India, discovered in 2009 by officials who were planning a celebration of the 50th anniversary of King’s pilgrimage there.

In it, King said something we desperately need to understand, finally, in a nation saturated with AR-15s, paid Internet troll brigades, Dark Web cults and backyard militias – not to mention a world full of nuclear weapons, deforestation, extinctions and climate change. cash.

“If this age is to survive,” King said, “it must follow the path of love and non-violence which (Gandhi) so nobly exemplified in his life…for in an age when sputniks and explorers rush into space and where guided ballistic missiles are launched blazing highways of death through the stratosphere no nation can win a war today we have no choice between violence and non-violence; it is either non-violence or non-existence.

How does the ordinary Earth pilgrim, irritated and discouraged by violence, somehow respond with nonviolence?

Sign in, next column, for insights from people along the way.

About Lucille Thompson

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