I was the traveller and sojourner that day, and it was through this doorway that the myths and stories of childhood came to life, and to live in a young man’s heart. It was magical, mysterious, and one of many stops along the South-West Peninsular Coast Path in Southwestern England.
For many weeks the promise of Arthur, Merlin, and all the mysteries of the Grail held mighty sway over me as I worked my way from the trails beginnings north along the rugged coast. Images and dreams graced my sleep as I bedded down night after night along the rocky coastline, and few, if any, of them were shattered by the reality of finally stepping onto the rocky crag called Tintagel Castle.
It was during one of the many LongWalks undertaken in my youth. I was not only discovering the history, myths, legends, and the people of the places being sauntered through on these journeys, but I was likewise discovering a great deal about myself.
The cultivation of a sense of place always goes hand in hand with cultivating a sense of self; a marvelous resonance between reciprocating landscapes! It was a true initiation, a rite-of-passage through the doorway of my heart into the landscape of my soul. Sweeter still was when a recent alum of our school, and a very close student/friend of mine, just returned from doing a GAP year experience and I asked her what the greatest benefit of taking such a time for herself was. Her immediate and unequivocal response, confirming this realization, was that of self-confidence and that of the world itself being one’s best classroom.
It has been said that initiation is the psyche’s response to mystery, great difficulties, and opportunities, so it would appear that initiation is something very important to our inner life and being. Or it should be! Initiation from the Latin, initium: entrance or beginning, literally meaning a going in. And, given that life is truly filled with mystery, great difficulties, and opportunity, you would anticipate that our educational institutions would hold and have initiation as one of its key experiences
Should this be education’s true “service” to the greater community?
A speech given a few years back to the graduating class at the University of Pennsylvania by Nipun Mehta really sums it up most beautifully with the acronym W-A-L-K. In his speech (Paths Are Made By Walking) he advises the graduates with the following:
“Right now each one of you is sitting on the runway of life primed for takeoff. You are some of the world’s most gifted, elite, and driven college graduates – and you are undeniably ready to fly. So what I’m about to say next may sound a bit crazy. I want to urge you, not to fly, but to – walk.
Four years ago, you walked into this marvelous laboratory of higher learning. Today, heads held high, you walk to receive your diplomas. Tomorrow, you will walk into a world of infinite possibilities.
But walking, in our high-speed world, has unfortunately fallen out of favor. The word “pedestrian” itself is used to describe something ordinary and commonplace. Yet, walking with intention has deep roots. Australia’s aboriginal youth go on walkabouts as a rite of passage; Native American tribes conduct vision quests in the wilderness; in Europe, for centuries, people have walked the Camino de Santiago, which spans the breadth of Spain. Such pilgrims place one foot firmly in front of the other, to fall in step with the rhythms of the universe and the cadence of their own hearts.”
W stands for witness, A stands for accept, L stands for love, and K stand for know thyself.
We have to learn how to be aware and in tune to what we are passing through, and to be attentive in the moment while learning, to accept that which presents itself to us. We also need to return to our natural state, which is to love, and to truly come to know who we really are. Walking slows one down to a point where one sees much more of the world, which enables us to digest and accept it more readily. The ability to observe nature creates a reciprocal perception of the doorway into our own heart, and into the territory of our souls. Learning how to take a real Walk in the way that Mehta suggests, and in how Thoreau likewise suggests in his classic essay called Walking, may just be one of the most important skills acquired during our formative years! Follow the link above to read the whole speech as it’s well worth the time.
LongWalking is a most valuable rite-of-passage for youth, and a most appropriate one for our times as we are truly traveling at the high-speed of thoughtlessness. To be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society that is rootless, powerless, ruthless, and futureless is not a legacy befitting the many youthful hearts yearning to discover the lost territory of the soul. The ability to witness, accept, love, and know thy self should be standards of educational endeavor, and should have a greater focus and weight than GPA’s and SAT scores. While these may assist in getting a job, they will hardly factor into obtaining a life worth living richly, and lovingly!