This is the season of pilgrimages. It’s a time when the pious set out to prove their piety whilst the non-worthy stay at home and stew in the stupendous stupidity that the world, we have made, has become.
I like a pilgrimage and have been following a series that follows some people in the public eye who have been convinced by the BBC to follow pilgrimage to Santiago. The Camino, as the camino flowers would have it, it a centuries old tradition that fell out of favour for many years before being revived in the last thirty years. It’s a walk from Southern France to north-western Spain (Galicia) and is supposed to follow in the steps of St. James. Indeed, his body it reputed to be encased there, but there are lots who suppose that this was just medieval mumbo to get the pilgrims packing for an all-inclusive endurance holiday that will test their faith in their own bodies as well as their mental reasoning; why am I doing this?
The question is an easy one to answer: the BBC was paying for them to do it. However, asked if the BBC were to pull the fiscal plug, would this mean they would halt proceedings? The answer was a resounding, no.
They weren’t having fun, Raphael Rowe, who had spent time in prison after wrongly being convicted of an offence he did not commit, said that his approach to the pilgrimage was the same as his approach to getting through his jail-sentence; resolve, resilience and strength of character were all needed in abundance. I liked Raphael as he was a loner whose personal boundaries were set to be invaded on a daily basis. Ill-at-ease from the start, he slowly eased into the company of the other pilgrims and became an important touchstone for the everyman viewer. No bullshit, no artifice, no Damascene moment; he slowly opened up and began to see what the pilgrimage was all about, from an ordinary point of view.
Along the way, the pilgrims encountered others who had decided upon the journey and many of them had not the slightest ‘belief’ that burnt its way into their souls. This did not stop them from being touched by the spirituality of the journey. A number of individuals spoke of the closeness to nature and their distance from the modern world. They began to noticed the little things that had flown beneath their radar previously to that. One man heard every word of the music that the played rather than every third or fourth. Bird singing, bugs crossing the route, trees rustling, all played their part in elevating the walk to pilgrim-like proportions.
If God was there, he/she was hiding in the design rather than being elevated above it.
If you haven’t seen this yet, catch up on BBC iPlayer.