Gideon Lewis-Kraus — A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful


Le pèlerinage et la conscience du pèlerinage, p. 63 :

I look at Tom. “Wait, but isn’t the point of a trip like this maybe to provide an escape from such self-conciousness? Are we dooming ourselves from the start by constantly wondering why we’re doing this, constantly recording the lyrical appearance of every piece of ungulate shit?”

Le chemin des flèches jaunes, p. 90 :

But it is the line of yellow arrows, not the bark crosses, that appears as a manifestation of the sacred in the world, what the writer Mircea Eliade calls “hierophany”. In The Sacred and the Profane, Eliade writes that the sign of the sacred is something that doesn’t belong to the world, something that establishes itself as necessarily and self-evidently true; it provides orientation, choreographs our movements. The yellow arrows do not belong to the world of barbecues and errands and idiosynchratic desires. In fact, they ask us to ignore that world, and all of its conflicts and fears, for the sake of their single directive.

Le deux Saints Jacques, p. 94 :

All over the place we’ve seen representations of Santiago Matamoros, Saint James the Moorslayer, on a white horse with a flaming sword. It was the chief military propaganda during the bloody centuries-long Christian siege of infidel Spain. “And then, to make matters even worse, the image was taken up by Franco too.”

But there’s also Santiago Peregrino, Saint James the Pilgrim, who takes vows of powerty and privation and provides a model, along this trail, of humility and gratitude. After all, the two of us are walking this trail right now, and both of use have some hope, however faint, that it’ll be bring us solace. “Neither of us believes in divine redemption or the story that a fucking stone boat delivered apostolic bones to Galicia.”

La sécularisation du pèlerinage de Santiago, p. 108 :

What I like about this experience so much is that the question of belief is absent. The ritual has remained close to unchanged even though the content has been mostly drained off. The Hajj isn’t like that—that’s still very much about the content of belief. What I need is find another pilgrimage like this one, where belief is a nonissue and you can just walk with direction, and I want to do it alone, and I want it to be even farther away than Spain, and I want it to be even longer, and harder, and I want to do it in the springtime, not in the heat of the summer.

Du pèlerinage comme une liberté par la contrainte, p. 126 :

The Camino isn’t at all about freedom from restraint but about freedom via restraint. You’ve subordinated all other desires to the big aim of getting to Santiago on foot. Following the rules, which are meager but inflexible, liberates you from having to figure out what to do next. Total freedom doesn’t feel like real freedom; real freedom requires the contrast of necessity. What can this walk mean to you if you haven’t figured that out?

De l’architecture japonaise passive-agressive, p. 195 :

The fancy, I realize as I try to set up camp, is a function of having to design a hut that’s pleasant enough for a short rest but impossible to sleep confortably in. There are no doors, and the entrances are located in such a way as to allow no draftless corner; the benches are too shallow to lie on, and a divider below prevents you from sheltering yourself underneath. The place is a masterpiece of understated passive-agression, the crowning achievement of a thousand year of melancholy anti-utilitarian Japanese aesthetics.

Une expérience de souffrance partagée, p. 228 :

On pilgrimage, the fact that everybody’s immediate suffering is so banal—blisters, foot pain—and so chosen (i.e., none of us have to be doing this) both eradicates and emphasizes the hierarchy of pain. On the one hand, the general level of discomfort allows you a break from comparative anguish. You don’t have to ask whether it’s okay for you to be suffering, whether you’ve suffered enough to justify the word; you just accept that you are. On the other hand, the company of those whose suffering is so much worse encourages you to get over yourself.

Du pèlerinage comme indifférence au sens salésien du terme, p. 235 :

There is, on the one hand, a life where everything is inherited and nothing is decided, like Sartre’s waiter or the ideal of a noble savage; this is behind the desire to visit pygmies or “eat what the local eat.” There is also, on the other hand, a life where all is unapologetically willed, like Nietzsche’s Superman, or Gauguin. In the former case, everything is settled; in the latter, it’s all up for grabs. The former has given up trying to think about the costs of consequences of his decisions; the latter affects not to care. What a pilgrimage does is stake out some middle ground. It’s both sorta commanded and sorta volontary. It’s dress rehearsal, and it’s also real.

C’est la vie, p. 256 :

David Shields, misrepresenting the work of Paul Elie, writes, “Contemporary culture make pilgrimage impossible. Experience is always secondhand, planned and described for one’s consumption by others in advance. Even the rare, authentically direct experience is spoiled by self-consciousness. We’re doomed to an imitation of life.” Of course, life in never an imitation of life; life is simply life.

Du pèlerinage séculaire comme expérience immédiate et finie, qui peut être convoquée à l’envie comme réserve d’expériences, p. 356 :

The secular inheritance of pilgrimages such as the Camino and Shikoku […] promise coherence not from the perspective of the infinite but from the finite. You’ve allowed for the fact that at times it will be difficult and painful, but it’s all part of the process. The meaning of the experience itself can be sorted out later, or indefinitely deffered.


Couverture du livre A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful