Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Report: The Pilgrimage by Paolo Coelho

[Alison writing]

Shoelace breakage has been a big problem for us here on the Camino de Santiago, so much so that I gave away half of my yarn supply to serve as emergency laces! I only had enough yarn left to knit one sock, and a couple of weeks ago I finished that sock. "Great" I thought. "Now what am I going to do for a relaxing evening activity?" Jackie suggested I could un-knit the sock, then knit it back up again, but Gwynne and Dawn both thought that was ridiculous. That's when I remembered the book I'd been carrying with me all the way from Seattle - The Pilgrimage by Paolo Coelho. I thought I'd better get to reading it!
Alison describes how RAM means
more than computer storage.

The Pilgrimage tells the story of the author's journey along the same road we're traveling now - the road to Santiago. Paolo never really wanted to walk this road. At home in Brazil, he had been a student of a tradition called RAM (rigor, adoration, mercy). Paolo was fully expecting to be promoted to the highest rank of the RAM tradition. He was to receive an indestrucable sword in a special ceremony. However, at the very last minute, the RAM Master decided Paolo was not worthy to receive his sword. You see, Paolo had failed to demonstrate the saintly virtue of humility. The Master sent Paolo to France to seek his sword and to learn some lessons by walking the Road to Santiago.

At Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Paolo met his guide, Petrus, and they started down the road together. They encountered many hazards along he way, all on purpose! Petrus was a tough guide. He required Paolo to do things like climb waterfalls and wrestle with rabid dogs. By comparison, our guide has really been taking it easy on us so far. Who are we to complain about a few blisters?

At several points along the road, Petrus assigned Paolo to do certain spritual exercises. I've been teaching a few of these exercises to my fellow Cyberpilgrims.

First came the Seed Exercise. You can read about that here:

We decided to do the Seed Exercise first thing in the morning. It was very energizing! After the screaming part, we were ready to hit the trail. Well, most of us were ready. Elissa and Bart were still balancing on one foot each in perfect tree poses. Their yoga instructors should be very pleased with them.

Then there was the Water Exercise, for the Arousal of Intuition:

Make a puddle of water on a smooth, nonabsorbent surface. Look into the puddle for a while. Then, begin to play with it, without any particular commitment or objective. Make designs that mean absolutely nothing.

After this one, Sandy and Jackie started making plans for a new sanctuary banner composed entirely of suspended water droplets. So much for a lack of objective! We are all looking forward to seeing the finished banner. It will be an inspiring backdrop for our worship services back in Seattle, and it's sure to earn Jackie an A+ in her applied calculus class.

For the Blue Sphere exercise, I tried to think of a song from childhood that we could all sing together. A song from childhood... hmmm... well, there was "Walk Whenever You're In the Hall." That was a big hit at West Carlisle Elementary School, but I'm not sure it enjoyed the same popularity in other districts. My dad was always playing his Neil Diamond records on the stereo when I was a kid. Perhaps we could do Sweet Caroline? Nah, too much like karaoke. Other than that, I just knew a bunch of Sunday School songs. Aha! Sunday School songs! That gave me an idea. 

I checked with Sandy first and he said it would be okay for us to sing this one, even though it was almost Lent, because any time is a good time to praise the Lord. He even borrowed a guitar from a local Flamenco musician in order to accompany us. We sang:

Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia
Praise Ye the Lord! (x2)

Praise Ye the Lord!
Alleluia! (x3)

Praise Ye the Lord!

and we sounded really good, thanks to the Holy Spirit and the many choir members among us! The second time around, Dana and Greta got out their recorders and played along. Then, much to everyone's amazement, Jeanne reached into her small backpack and pulled out an autoharp! She strummed and plucked away just like a professional autoharpist.

We sang and sang until the intense blue light of agape filled the room. We kept singing, and the light spilled out into the Spanish countryside, over the Atlantic Ocean and across the Americas. Our friends in Seattle saw it, including those who are sick and those in prison. The light also went south to Africa, where it covered Tunisia and Egypt, Libya and the Sudan. Eventually that light circled the whole world, spreading energy and peace wherever it went. It was a beautiful thing!
Blue light encircles our room, then the continent, then the
world, and has last been spotted encircling the
Pleiades in outer space.

I don't want to give away the end of the story, so if you want to find out if Paolo found his sword, you will have to read The Pilgrimage for yourself. You can find a copy at the Camino Branch of the Seattle Public Library:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this great book report, Alison. I have to confess that this particular book is what got me started thinking and dreaming about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela over 20 years ago. I found it to be magical (well, maybe even a bit too) and I was entranced by the idea. I read it 2-3 times, then when I finally was able to make my first camino (in 2008) I took it along as a companion to connect places I saw with stories in the book. After my first day I ditched every ounce of extra weight, leaving the book in Roncesvalles for whoever my enjoy it. After my camino I bought another copy and carefully noted all place names and connected my own recollections with Coelho's stories. So my copy is now all marked up with notes from my reading and rereading. It's a fascinating book that easily sucks a person in . . . .if someone is susceptible to New Agey spirituality they can take it perhaps a little too seriously. Along with The Alchemist I would put this at the top of the list of Coelho's books. Thanks again!