Do you ever find yourself pondering on where pilgrim problems sit along the great problem spectrum? I mean problems that pilgrims encounter (not problematic pilgrims…as that would be a series of blog posts on its own). Would they be classified as first world problems do you think? Following on from my recent posts that described funny pilgrim habits and seven common perplexing pilgrim problems, here are another seven problems for your amusement:
1. Wifi anxiety.
I’ve noticed pilgrims can get a bit antsy, when disconnected from wifi and the interweb for any length of time. It shows up in jittery body language, arms thrust upwards, smartphones clutched in hand, wildly swooping the air to try to get a signal. At popular pitstops, even in coffee queues, out come the i-tech gadgets and tablets performing a function not unlike a security blanket. The ding, ding, ding of incoming messages provides the background muzac to the zombie-eyes locked onto screens look, while thumbs frenetically tap, tap, tap almost at the speed of light. I have often wondered what the average human will look like in a few hundred years time in evolutionary terms. I would imagine we will lose the use of our fingers and grow extra large opposable thumbs instead. Ah bless. The need to be connected with our virtual world is ever present. And yet, how ironic, when we are all connected to each other anyway by energy, vibrations, thoughts and spirit. We only have to look up, tune in and sense with our hearts.
2. What goes on on the Camino goes on Facebook!
Linked to point one, is the perpetual desire to update Facebook pages with snippets from the day’s walk, photos from the trail including the odd pilgrim meal or glass of wine and gaggles of pilgrims (I state this, knowing full well I am guilty as charged!) The need for validation of pilgrim activity by putting all and sundry into the public domain is remarkable. Golly, how did all those thousands of pilgrims, throughout the ages, cope without Facebook? Coming over here, walking anonymously! One piece of advice, be mindful of what you are doing and where you are doing it. Nowhere is sacred. You do not know, who is watching, snapping or filming and before you can say St. James, your very own face (or another part of your anatomy) could be plastered all over social media in some uncompromising downward pilgrim pose.
3. Walking like there is no tomorrow.
I don’t think I am alone, when I say that it is actually hard to stop walking, when you have been walking for several hours a day for days on end…even if it hurts. There is something so completely and utterly addictive about trekking along the Camino. On rest days, it can be hard to be still (except when asleep). Is this a problem? I suppose it depends on your perspective really. Being in perpetual motion can be good for all sorts of reasons – it keeps you fit, you can visit amazing places, connect with fascinating people, unlock creativity etc. However, the compulsion to keep on moving forward, and sometimes at great speed can come between a pilgrim and the special, quiet, moments of reflection and contemplation or the beautiful little details waiting to be discovered.
4. Yellow arrow fever.
We’ve all done this I’m sure, breaking into a sweat, while craning the neck to seek out the familiar Camino yellow arrows even on a rest day! Yep, its a force of habit that is hard for pilgrims to break. Will it continue post-pilgrimage? What’s your story?
5. Inability to pick up litter.
Now this one is horrifying. For some reason, pilgrims, I’m not saying ALL pilgrims, but there must be a fair few out there, seem to develop a strange aversion to disposing their own rubbish (and for those who live in Northern America, that is garbage to you). How can they possibly feel OK about dropping all sorts of unsightly trash along a beautiful, world heritage pilgrimage walk, through astounding countryside? (By the way that question was rhetorical, I’m not expecting the culprits to answer). Perhaps their highly evolved opposable thumbs have trouble grasping the said litter, or their packs are just so heavy (they should have listened to Eric) that they are simply unable to bend down to pick it up. The thing that really gets me is the tissue trail…oh move away from the kleenex people. Take a handkerchief instead. Remember those?
6. I’ll just leave this here…
One person’s graffiti is another’s artistic expression. Yes, indeed, we do know that graffiti or ‘street art’ can bear important messages of protest, challenge or aesthetic beauty, take Banksy for example. Along the Camino, there are outbreaks of graffiti everywhere. On the signposts, milestone markers, walls of quirky bars and albergues to name but a few. I wouldn’t mind so much if the writers wrote neatly, used calligraphy or even a dictionary! But I got sick of the sight of Sharpie slogans scrawled over various surfaces as though a tarantula had walked through a puddle of spilt Quink and promptly flew into an apoplectic rage. Oh and the endless platitudes, interspersed with annoying cliches, such as ‘no pain no glory’ or ‘true pilgrims walk in silence’ (and I’m sure it could be said that true pilgrims don’t commit vandalism, but who am I to judge?) Surely the authors are deserving of a Batman slap? No, you don’t agree? And who are the scribes? Are they vandals in their own home towns (or villages)? Or has the energy and the atmosphere of the Camino, created a hermetically sealed bubble, where it feels OK to do something quite out of character? I’ll just leave this here for you to debate.
7. Selfie-ing the sacred.
In our age of social media induced narcissism, it is not surprising that many a pilgrim feels the urge to capture a selfie now and again (myself included), fuelling the wifi anxiety and Facebook frenzy mentioned in points 1 and 2. However, I do find it disturbing how nothing is out of bounds for a backdrop, including sacred shrines and monuments e.g. the statue of the virgin Mary at Pic D’Orisson on the way to Roncesvalles and the simple but striking iron cross at Cruz de Ferro. Pilgrims jostle for the best spot to take the most becoming side shot, flashing Hollywood worthy smiles or throwing blue steel stares. They are totally oblivious to their fellow travellers, who are waiting ever so patiently ‘in the wings’ for a quiet moment to pray, meditate and soak up the mystical atmosphere. With thanks to Unvirtuous Abbey for this shot. I’ll just leave this here…
Peace, love and light,