I got downstairs to the cafe that was attached to the Auberge Carmen, my place for the night. I was going to just leave and see what was down the road before I got something to eat, but I decided instead to grab a chocolate croissant and cafe con leche (the breakfast of Saints). As I did, some of the other pilgrims walked through or sat down for their breakfast.

I finished up and walked out the door. It was still dark out but the way out of town was pretty obvious. Once I walked down a few city streets, I went under an old stone arch, and was out of town into the countryside, walking up a hill.

I was looking up at the sky (it looked like it might finally be clearing up) and tripped on a crack in the road but caught myself before I fell. I could’ve gotten pissed off (maybe beat myself up a little, tell myself what an idiot I was, and that I should feel embarrassed). But instead I laughed. I laughed at the meaninglessness of my little trip, and my initial reaction to it. By the way, did you know that on the average, children laugh something like 350 times a day, while adults come in at around 5 or 6. What does that tell you?

I kept climbing and was starting to see the sun coming up behind the hills to the east, beyond Santiago. Penny and Rachel were out there, probably on the Mesata where it was most likely getting hot. Hopefully Kirsten was there too, still walking. I found a few small stones on the Camino and stacked them on a nearby wall- a talisman, or prayer for them on their journeys.

As I got to near the top of the hill, I reached a church and cemetery, and the sun made itself known, emerging from some clouds behind the church. I’m not religious, but I had to stop. It’s moments like these that make us feel that, well…there is some greater meaning to this dance we all do, this tripping and teetering on the brink of madness, slouching on our way to Bethlehem, or maybe hunched over in a car on the freeway on our way to Encino.

I took a few pictures (do we call them pictures anymore?) and as I was leaving, a short, one-eyed, slightly hunchbacked guy came by. He seemed to be a little older then me, and a lot more grizzled. He reminded me of that old one eyed actor you used to see in westerns. Google search: “western actor one eye”. Result: (About 3,780,000 results – 0.75 seconds): Jack Elem.

I read his obit. the best part was the story of how his eye got screwed up: “The actor’s own cockeye was the result of a childhood fight in Phoenix. The way he told it, a fellow Boy Scout stabbed him in the left eye with a pencil during a scrape at a troop meeting.” I also like the description of his rootless eyeball “…which wandered lazily around its socket.” Awesome writing!

The little hunchback guy and I walked together for awhile, speaking as best we could. He understood no English, and my Spanish is…well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since Sophomore Spanish class. From what I understood, he wouldn’t be going as far as I that day, or he was trying to figure out the difference between a platypus and a wolverine, not sure which. Like I said, there was a language barrier.

We kept walking uphill, and I moved ahead of my slightly hunchbacked friend. I’m not sure why or when, but I had learned to really push myself uphill, and not get tired. I had become the proverbial pack mule.

As I moved farther away from the hunchback guy, for the first time I was by myself, I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me. Naturally my mind drifted off, and I started meditating on one step at a time, trying to free my mind of any other distractions. 

This is the therapy the Camino provides, and this is why it’s attractive to certain people, at certain times of their lives. These what I call self-absorbed ramblings that I keep bringing up are the things that my subconscious chooses to push up to the surface when everything else is forced aside, simply due to the enforced concentration of the mind on the physical journey (putting one foot in front of the other, walking 30 kilometers a day). It’s sort of a walking meditation.

So, at least for me, when I’m by myself with no one to talk to (one of the main reasons for being out here), I get in a groove, and gradually, these things sort of fade into my conscience. I have to assume it’s my sub conscience saying- “Hey Mark, you wanna be happy? Think about this and fix it, asshole.”

One of the last things I knew I had to deal with (and it one of the reasons I came to Spain again) was to deal with my codependence on women- most recently Amanda, but others before that. I needed to discover where it stemmed from, and hopefully to fix it.

I chose to leave that for tomorrow (I knew that it would remind me of it’s presence during tomorrows 35 k slog) and listen to some music instead. So I put on my headphones and I listened to my carefully chosen Camino playlist. I’ll post it tomorrow.

The sun finally came out, hopefully for good. I remembered to give thanks, something I hadn’t been doing enough of recently, I kind of got out of the habit. It may sound bullshit, but gratitude is a real thing. I think its the basis for the ritual of praying. But just like so much else, the truer, deeper sense that we get from participating in the ritual has been lost for many of us.

Speaking of being lost, I’ll get to that in a little while. For now I was walking through another small town not seeing a soul. Until another pilgrim walked by in a hurry. He looked like he could be from So. Cal. Good looking guy, prematurely grey, Had hiking sticks, boots, a backpack. Oddly, he was wearing a monks robe. Maybe he was an apprentice- I don’t think most monks are in a hurry like he was.

The Camino kept going uphill, I went through a forest and merged with a paved road through a town, then back into fields. Still, the roads remained paved and I would see cars often. I hit the turnoff for Pornos and figured I should take it, but today was to be 35k so I opted out. It would have been an extra 2 k and I was on a pilgrimage after all…

After another kilometer I took an alternate route to the Camino. It paralleled the Camino which travelled along the main road, but went through corn fields instead, a bit more pastoral. Past the fields were green rolling hills. Everything over on this side of the country was green, verdant, lush. It seemed a drastic counterpoint to the Camino I experienced last year which was for the most part, hot and dry. Which was probably another reason why this has been a different Camino for me. 

I walked through a town and met a few chickens standing at attention, watching me pass. I don’t know about you, but I think chickens are funny. Just listen to them. Though I’m not sure what’s up with rubber chickens. Must be a certain type of humor. I think if your a 3 stooges fan, you also think rubber chickens are funny. Just a theory.

I walked up a hill to some giant windmills, like the ones in Palm Springs. I thought of Don Quixote and if I, like him, was just another hopeless romantic in a world turning away from such crazy notions as light, magic, and love. The I realized i had taken a wrong turn.

I traced my way back and saw where I screwed up and proceeded in the right direction. I passed some pilgrims and pushed on. I had now added a few k to my days walk, ending up doing abut 37k. I walked by a huge lake in the distance, through some fields, and finally into Langosteria. I stopped into the first auberge I saw.

Maybe the point as we “walk down the path” is to look for the signs that show us the things we need to learn, but also for the things that will remind us of the beautiful creature we were before society got ahold of us. What we gain from that time and those lessons in between is wisdom. But we can only get there when we find a way to return to that feeling we used to know: when every sunrise was beautiful, every laugh was hysterical, and when every step was taken with grace.

“We’re all just walking each other home.”
― Ram Dass

Find someone. Walk them home.

Ayn Rand was a selfish bitch.

Ayn Rand said: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Lauren Bennett a/k/a “Lucky Otter”provides this perceptive assessment: “…the author and philosopher who The Tea Party seems to worship with the same reverence they worship Jesus Christ (which is highly ironic, because Rand was an atheist and her values diametrically opposed to Christianity)…

Certain conservative pundits in recent years have twisted Rand’s ugly philosophy of selfishness (“objectivism”) into their “Christian” right-wing political agenda, and Bill O’Reilly even went so far to say that Jesus would not want to help the poor and homeless because it’s their own fault they don’t have enough to eat.

These right wing pundits and politicians never stop to consider that it was the poor and homeless who were Jesus’ disciples and friends, not the rich and powerful. Rand believed that empathy and altruism were the greatest evils to beset mankind, and her childhood hero was a serial killer. She said “she liked the way his mind worked.”

The reason I bring up Ayn Rand is that her philosophy does seem to be pervasive as we trundle on through these times. Apparently the means justifies the ends. What everyone thinks they deserve is different, and what they will do to get it depends on differing factors too. Which is one of the reasons my marriage fell apart. As Ayn implies, to hell with anyone who gets hurt or falls by the wayside. Apparently referring to those poor souls who are just too weak to “stand in her way”.

I have a theory that love was created by women. Maybe the snake in the garden of Eden represented love. Love is the thing which entangled men to be dedicated to one mate. Women bear the children, and have to nurture them for a number of years, and men are hard wired to generate as many offspring as possible.

So maybe love was invented for men to feel guilt for going against their instincts. And not just because there were a bunch of horny cave men walking around with hard ons. No, generating as many offspring leads to diversity. Diversity in nature, just like in investments (Ayn would appreciate that sentiment) is the best way to insure survival and success.

Stick with me here, I hope this doesn’t come off as a stupid, misoginistic rant. It was actually from a first thing in the morning writing exercise I partake in most mornings where I simply write down what travels through my feeble mind, stream of consciousness. I thought the ideas presented are kind of fun, and funny.

This is not to imply that women are evil and using guilt to make men go against their instincts. No, this is why women are goddesses. They’re using their wiles to help man to see the light, live in grace, do the right thing. We are just a bunch of lunkheads walking around with our heads up our asses most of the time.

Yeah maybe we do sit down and have a beer with our fellow caveman and discuss the problems of the world once in awhile, but strangely enough, we still really have no idea what makes the world tick. It’s probably just an excuse to sit around and have a few beers, fart out loud, and act like we care about the world’s problems before we get on to discussing the important things like football minutia. We are for the most part operating on the rational, logical side of the brain. Women I think are more apt to use emotion to navigate the world. And god knows we men need to be shown the way. That’s why “behind every man there’s a good woman”.

So, by woman dangling love out there, it even possibly helped men grow men from their grunting, smelly, instinctual selves, and forced them to develop emotions as well, albeit not as sophisticated as womans. We still had to go out, kill the lions, deal with nature on a base level to survive and provide. But we stuck around, and started to understand the abstract benefits of things a little more nebulous, and emotionally tied to women, than the basics. Things like, “hmm…I really like the way she prepares that antelope, with a touch of mint and juniper, and a few rutabagas on the side. Maybe I should stick around…” Maybe this is what evolved into love.

And so it went. And the dance continued, and it became more complex, and emotions developed in both sexes. It could be as simple as this: men developed strength, physical prowess, etc because they had to deal with life at it’s basic essence: survival against a hostile world, getting food and shelter for survival, procreating. Women developed emotions because they had to deal with, well…men.

Maybe this is another reason for the yin and yang, the continual contrasts, the constant struggle of life. Some religions talk about us having both male and female within us. Maybe they’ve got something there. Maybe our slouch towards Bethlehem is one of an eternal reconciliation of those two facets of our souls.

When Amanda chose not to let me not to see her in the hospital I was hurt. I know now though it was because I was still deeply, emotionally attached to her, like a kid whose been rescued from the playground bully by his mom. Unfortunately, what results can be an unhealthy emotional attachment.

Sometimes in life it seems that, the bigger the obstacle (or lesson as it were), the bigger the event has to provide you with enough pain and hurt to teach you the lesson you need to learn. It’s like a cigarette smoker being told by his doctor to quit, or die. Even though he reads the warning labels, friends tell him not to, he knows it’s unhealthy, until he’s faced with his own mortality, only then does he take it seriously.

And maybe that’s what happened to Amanda. Her and I had been averting our attentions from the things that matter, partly for our own selfish reasons. Maybe it took something big to happen for us both to stand back and consider our behavior and make a correction.

It would be nice if life was black and white, clear and simple, easy to understand. But I think that the shit we go through to try and see things with clarity and learn what we must, is the fabric of life. We just need to try and stay centered and learn to look at those things without the negative emotions we’ve learned that cause us to beat ourselves up and tell us were not good enough, that effect our clarity, and the ability to live a happy life.

Maybe going through what she did made her take stock and turn to focus on herself, her kids, and her life ahead, most likely without me. Maybe it was the clean break we both needed to stop our codependence on one another. Maybe it was the universe showing me I was being selfish, not acquiescing to her wishes without a fight and that I should get over her and get on with it.

But I forgot that the universe has a sense of humor. Soon enough I found that it still had a thing or two to show both of us in the mad dance of two battered souls trying to learn a few new steps…