Friday, February 1, 2008

When You Go on a Pilgrimage....

"Most pilgrims don't know why they're walking....Over the centuries the material trappings [of pilgrimages] have changed, but the concept of paring life down to its basic form has remained. When you go on pilgrimage, you put yourself on the margins of society. You escape its rules, but by the same token you put yourself at the mercy of a rather lawless frontier" (Jane Christmas, What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim [Vancouver: Greystone, 2007], 41).

For me, starting to journal in blog form definitely is pilgrimage. Same itchy uncertainty one has in setting forth on a journey into the unknown, with a horizon of hope in the distance. And when journaling turns into blogging, there's the added sense of self-exposure, with all the risks attendant on disclosing oneself to others.

Journaling is old hat to me. I've done it since I was in high school. When I review my journals over the 40 years that I've been keeping them, I'm amazed at the constancy of the preoccupations in them: God; how to talk about God in a world full of pain; the interface of religion and culture/politics; family and shifting definitions of family; how to claim identity, when aspects of one's identity seem shameful or tarnished (I'm both Southern and gay); dreams.

When I'm the only audience for my journal's soul-searching (well, when I and that unrelenting observer self who lives in the depths of the soul), I have a certain assurance about what it means to journal. The pilgrimage of conventional journaling at least follows a well-trodden road.

But blogging as a way of journaling? Perhaps that's as insane as setting out into the wildnerness on pilgrimage, putting oneself on the margins of society with a group of fellow travelers searching together for a goal that seems totally opaque to others.

Who's the audience for a journal-cum-blog? It seems extraordinarily solipsistic to think that anyone would want to read one's private meanderings on a regular basis.

What motivates me to want to try at least to share is twofold. First, there's the hope (a constant one running through my whole life journey) of finding fellow pilgrims, others moved by dreams, goals, and horizons similar to the ones that draw me forward.

And second, there's the increasing sense, as one moves through midlife, that it's important to leave something behind. To say something that counts. As Audre Lorde faced the terminal cancer that eventually took her life, she wrote, "I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain."

Yes. I understand that sense, the need to find transformative truth (for myself, for others) and to speak it, even when I pay a cost for doing so. To share it.

One of the reasons I've created links for this blog, to sites of fellow pilgrims as well as to news sites I visit frequently, is to point others to places in which I find truth that is not ordinarily discussed, printed, and shared. Many of the links are to sites that the mainstream media would quickly identify as "gay" sites.

I resist labeling them with that label, because in my view, though they are definitely gay information sites and are proud to claim the label, they are also sites to hear overlooked truths that need to find their way into the "mainstream." They are sites that insist on talking about what we don't want to talk about, but need to talk about, if we're to be a whole and humane society. They insist on delving into truth that promises social transformation and social healing, if it can be incorporated into our social (and ecclesial) structures.

To find that kind of truth, we--I--have to go on pilgrimage, away from safe and secure places, to places where such truth resides, even if it's in rocky pockets of hidden-away cliffs or at the bottom of the sea.

No comments: