Sunday, 13 June 2010
The Simple Life
I left home and made for the underground train. It was busy. If there is anything I hate more about London it is the Tube where everyone is packed like sardines, bodies pressed against each other, many hands reaching for the rail above to steady themselves but always avoiding the least finger contact. Always avoiding any eye contact. Always maintaining absolute silence. On the Tube people behave as if they are the only one there. With elbows out to create a little personal space people read folded newspapers or have their nose in a book. Those lucky enough to have a seat stare straight ahead ignoring the girl who is applying her makeup as if she was in the privacy of her bedroom. All strangers in this alien place.
Being happy with what I need rather than what I want is the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the Camino and frankly I can’t get enough of it. My life post several Caminos is far from perfect but it has changed. I’m aware of less striving now. Less ambition to succeed at all costs. Less desire to be first at the top of the hill and more happiness just to get to the top. It may also be age but I also go much more slowly these days. I am reluctant to fill each day with activity and I resent it when days pass and I have no time for myself just to sit and read. Or indeed just sit.
Over and over again I read stories from other pilgrims how five years after their pilgrimage they still think about their Camino every day. What is that about? I’m becoming more convinced that it is the simplicity of the pilgrim life we learn to love.
We sometimes think of the Spanish as being extravagant and dramatic and I laughed out loud when as friend of mine sent me this picture of a child in a Holy Week procession in Spain. Yesterday the picture was passed around the assembled Spaniards in La Terazza. Everyone smiled. Don Antonio admitted, “we crazy Spaniards, we take things to extremes.”
Not just Spaniards. The practice of upsetting parents by children wearing simple gowns for First Communion in Clapham started when a few years ago there was a hushed silence when a horse and cart drew up at the church gates and a little girl in full wedding dress alighted to make her first communion. She was later upstaged by another little girl who at the press of a secret button lit the lights in her head dress which also played Ave Maria in time to the flashes. Enough was enough and simplicity became the order of the day. At least in church.