A peripatetic pilgrimage: When travel feels like a secular religious experience

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Editor’s Word — David G. Allan is the editorial director for CNN Journey, Fashion, Science and Wellness. This essay is a part of a column known as The Knowledge Challenge, to which you’ll be able to subscribe right here.

(Daily News) — Some have a chosen place to hope. I’ve a chosen place to suppose.

You may pray or suppose wherever, in fact, however some locations are by design or their nature extra conducive to going deeper.

My secular cathedral is San Francisco’s Ocean Seashore, discovered on the western fringe of the town, past Golden Gate Park, overlooking sea and sky and accessible because the terminus of the undulating N Judah line of the town’s MUNI gentle rail.

There I’ve routinely returned to kind myself out, apply some philosophy and dabble a bit within the which means of life. Strolling alongside this large, three-and-a-half mile expanse of nature is how I do my finest pondering.

Simply as church buildings, synagogues and mosques are constructed to encourage worship, reflection and communion with the neighborhood and one’s God, there are pure locations that equally focus the thoughts and instill an expertise of awe.

There’s something almost mystical about such locations, how they embrace gentle, or change your level of reference, or encompass you with a heightened sense of magnificence.

What began as a New Yr’s decision to look at the sundown as soon as a month once I lived in San Francisco then become a ritual and now that I do not dwell there, a pilgrimage.

My private custom begins on the Java Seashore espresso store throughout the Nice Freeway from the water. I take pleasure in a espresso and pastry whereas I write in my journal till you’ll be able to see the solar begin to dip under the dunes, and I head throughout the road and discover a perch within the sand.

Watching the solar soften into the Pacific Ocean is a assured peak expertise, because the well-known psychologist Abraham Maslow would have put it.

Such good moments dissolve the skinny line between the self and the factor being skilled till there’s solely the expertise itself.

For a quick second, there isn’t a me watching the sundown, simply sundown. And as soon as I break from the reverie, I start my mindwalk.

A strolling meditation

Pondering and strolling, as a aware pair, has roots that date again to Historic Greece and the Sophists who wandered and lectured within the burgeoning market of concepts.

Aristotle’s faculty of Peripatetic philosophers was named after the colonnade, or stroll (peripatos), that was a serious function of his college, and it’s believed that Aristotle himself taught whereas in movement.

The names of thinkers who walked to get their minds “shifting” reads just like the canon acquainted to each philosophy main — which I as soon as was.

Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein walked to suppose. Thomas Hobbes’ strolling stick contained an inkwell for spontaneous observe taking.

Søren Kierkegaard wrote about Copenhagen’s Thinker’s Approach, Georg Hegel traversed Heidelberg’s Philosophenweg and Immanuel Kant took a each day stroll previous Königsberg’s Philosophen-damm.

In Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust: A Historical past of Strolling” — a guide I learn whereas taking a sequence of walks by Central Park, years after I started my Ocean Seashore custom – the creator features a chapter on Jean-Jacques Rousseau titled “The Thoughts at Three Miles an Hour.” Rousseau defined the connection between philosophizing and strolling, marking pedestrianism as one thing deeper than mere transportation however as a aware cultural act.

“By no means did I feel a lot … as within the journeys I’ve taken alone and on foot,” he wrote in his autobiographical “Confessions.” “There’s something about strolling which stimulates and enlivens my ideas … my physique must be on the transfer to set my thoughts going.” One in all Rousseau’s final works was titled “Reveries of a Solitary Walker.”

For my Ocean Seashore walks, which I proceed at any time when I go to my previous house, I resolve on a subject forward of time. Generally it is a query comparable to “Can individuals make themselves completely satisfied simply by deciding to be completely satisfied?” or “Is faith greater than ethics plus ritual?”

However most frequently I’ve wrestled with questions on learn how to dwell my life. Essentially the most life-altering resolution I made on that seaside was whether or not to ask my girlfriend, then of just a few months, if I might comply with her to Bangkok the place she was headed for a fellowship.

I made a decision I have to, and did. She mentioned sure, and we have been married for 19 years now. On my most up-to-date go to, I sorted out a decision associated to our teenage daughter.

The Latin phrase solvitur ambulando, “many issues are solved by strolling,” sums it up properly. There’s an Eskimo customized, for instance, through which you stroll off your anger by persevering with till the emotion ceases.

You then mark the spot earlier than heading again, as a bodily illustration of the sensation’s magnitude. I acknowledge the ability of such stroll remedy.

This have to be the place

For me, although, it isn’t simply the strolling. It is the place. Time-forsaken Ocean Seashore, which runs from the Cliff Home on the north finish to the San Francisco Zoo close to the opposite, is right for this secular spiritual activity.

It is a dreamy expanse at nightfall, with sky inverted within the reflection of the water. Add the perpetual waves, growling breeze and the impermanence of my footprints and it’s like strolling by a Zen Beat poem.

I typically lose my ideas within the grey sea or huge clouds, however I keep, and stroll, till I’ve reached some conclusion or resolve.

San Francisco climate being persistently fall-like or colder, Ocean Seashore is rarely crowded. Apart from surfers in 7-millimeter thick wetsuits, few get within the freezing water any deeper than their ankles.

In between, individuals strolling their canine and the occasional runner lie lengthy stretches the place nobody can hear you discuss to your self besides the sandpipers who’re too preoccupied with dodging the surf to take discover.

There are occasional enclaves of sundown watchers, {couples} huddled beneath Indian blankets and neo-hippies organizing a bonfire. Tall dunes separate the seaside from a commercial-free boardwalk and freeway site visitors.

In recent times the dunes have slowly overcome the street, closing off a big part to automobiles. And on the fringe of Golden Gate Park, there’s a wild tangle of Monterey cypress and different cover bushes framed by two windmill ruins. It would not really feel such as you’re in a metropolis in any respect.

Maybe the nascent, and pseudo, science of psychogeography lends rationalization to the truth that this place would have an effect on me in a method that different locations don’t.

The place continent meets sea is an finish of the earth and the start of a brand new journey, the proverbial edge earlier than the leap, a literal line within the sand.

Underneath the large sky and within the invigorating climate, every thing appears attainable and contemplatable on this place, and others prefer it.

It reminds us to be humble and grateful when journey uncovers places that talk to us so emphatically that simply by strolling by them modifications us for the higher.

 

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