11 Jun Wandering in Exile
The perpetual exile of wanderers is always between the projected reminiscence of home and the reflected appearances of a foreign land. Bittersweet reminiscence remains forever divided between the idealized past and the uncertain hopes and fears of the future. This fractured perspective projects its ideals, hopes, and fears onto a flattened map of reality. The map is not the reality of the territory, and so the mapmaker can never fully come back home. The mapmaker forgets she is the origin of the map, and takes the representation for the reality. The projections become reflections, and the mapmaker lives in the reflected representations of the map she has projected.
Between projection and reflection, we wander back and forth in exile. We are commuters on a circular track, always departing, never fully arriving. Sometimes we relate to the unspoken despair of this situation by inuring ourselves to its meaninglessness. We flatten the foreign land into a repetitive and random wasteland of habituation. Or sometimes we seek to distract ourselves by stretching, twisting, shocking, and seducing it into something novel or tolerable. But there is a limit to how fully we can lubricate the dysfunction of our automated existence. In every way, home remains just out of touch.
Returning to the Source: The Many Paths of Pilgrimage
But at any point in this wandering, the distance between subject and object, between “who am I?” and “where am I?” can be bridged through a gradual or immediate surrender of ground. Recognizing the groundlessness of one’s identity allows us to emerge onto a horizon of infinite possibility. Recognizing the groundlessness of the external elements allows them to dance in the expanse of sky-like space.
How can we give ground? How do we surrender ground, honor ground, and release our fixation on gaining and maintaining ground? There is a broad spectrum of ways of practicing this path of letting go. One can be a pilgrim on the effortless, undeliberate, and on-the-spot journey of resting directly in the space that is beginninglessly free of “I” and “that.”
Or if one needs more substantial support, a pilgrim can ritualistically plant their hands and deepest heart wishes directly into the Earth, giving back with body, speech, and mind, all and more than has ever been received.
In every case, this path of letting go is the path of pilgrimage. It is a path of returning home from our self-imposed exile, of relinquishing our representational map of a world woven with hope and fear. On this path we must let go the idealized fiction of a home that could possibly be contained by such a limited map, or welcome such a needy and impetuous map maker. Letting go, the pilgrim is immersed in the direct experience of presence, free of projection and reflection. Letting be, the pilgrim is connected with the immediate reality of those around her, and of the innate sacredness of the natural world.
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