As one journey ends, another begins
Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, ended last month, and Advent, the Christian preparation for Jesus' birth, began. Both are walks of sorts.
In Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during the daylight hours for 29 or 30 days. That's not all. They also follow an inner fast: no arguing, gossiping, criticizing others, losing one's patience or temper, and -- in the case of men -- ogling women. Talk about a power walk!
The Advent journey, approximately the same length, is less demanding. Observant Christians reflect on various aspects of Christ's life and ministry while lighting a new Advent candle each Sunday. The walk ends at Christmas.
Pilgrimage -- going somewhere with a spiritual purpose -- is found in many traditions. Hindus and Buddhists, for example, are known not only for spiritual walks, which sometimes involve scaling mountains or climbing many steps, but also for multiday meditation marathons.
This metaphor of walking is found in languages, too. "Wie geht's," Germans ask, or "How is it going?" Indonesians, citizens of the world's most populous Islamic country, wish departing friends "selamat jalan," or "blessed journey." And the ancient Latin proverb "solvitur ambulando" translates as "Problems get solved by being walked out."
One day as an adolescent Jean Houston, now a well-known mind researcher, was rushing out of her New York City high-rise, she accidentally knocked a smallish elderly gentleman off his feet. As she helped him up, he asked in French-accented English, "Young lady, where are you going in such a rush?" "I'm late for school," she said, apologetically. "Very well then," he replied. "Bon voyage!"
The man, whom she later befriended, turned out to be the renowned Jesuit anthropologist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin.
Our favorite pilgrimage reference comes in Henry David Thoreau's essay "Walking." The verb saunter, the 19th-century New England philosopher wrote, can be derived from two French phrases. One is "san terre," meaning "without land or country." One wanders around aimlessly because one has no place to go.
Thoreau preferred the second derivation, "a la Sainte Terre," meaning "to the Holy Land." Life for him was a pilgrimage, a sacred journey to a sacred place. When he walked in the woods, he said, it seemed as if invisible lines of force would draw his feet to a particular place. When he got there, it was the very place he felt he was meant to be.
As a Jewish Christian and a Muslim, we pray that you will also walk on the wise side and be guided to the Holy Land of your best self. In the spirit of pilgrimage, may you go well into the New Year.
and M. Jan Rumi
are co-founders of Wisdom Factors International, a Hawaii-based nonprofit dedicated to making the world wiser (www.wisdomfactors.com
) and co-authors of the recent book "Wising Up: A Youth Guide to Good Living" (www.wisingup.com
), currently being sold by the Hawaii Lions Clubs as a fundraiser.