Saturday 21 July 2012

The Martial Pilgrim

Setting out on a pilgrimage requires a certain preparation. One has a goal in mind and perhaps a map of the territory ahead. Equipment is needed, essential provisions are packed and then the pilgrim sets out. At first the way is gentle though it takes time to get used to the pace of the journey. Feet blister and joints ache from the new regime. The terrain gradually becomes a little steeper and each step forward causes struggle. Eventually the road levels out and the strain on the body abates somewhat. This is the honeymoon period , the view improves and although it may seem daunting, the territory the pilgrim travels becomes easier to transverse. At this stage the pilgrim has met others along the way. Fellow travelers who have chosen to move along the same path.

Gradually though the pilgrim notices that his companions one by one, retire from their quest. The pilgrim's journey now becomes more solitary. The initial enthusiasm for the journey begins to wane and his route takes him away from main roads and along little used trails where unexpected obstacles present at regular intervals. At this point the temptation to abandon his holy mission is strong. He misses home comforts.The company of a loved one , the warmth of a winter fire , a rest from his weariness. Still, he is compelled to continue. A force within him , stronger even than his own will moves him forward. He undergoes a metamorphoses. Changes in his body are apparent. The pilgrim gains a physical strength he thought he may never have known. His body becomes lithe. Muscle's and sinews become taunt. A swiftness and sureness in his every step become quite noticeable. Although the terrain is now at its worst the pilgrim is more than capable of meting its challenge. Winding hills , dark forests, rocky paths are all taken in the pilgrim's steady stride. As he nears his destination the pilgrim is elated. He can see his "mecca". His place of fulfillment where he can reflect on his journey. He imagines what is will be like. To finally stand in front of his idol. To pay respect and to rejoice in the blessings of the hierarchy. The keepers of  this holy relic.The temple of his veneration is now within sight. Not far to go now for our pilgrim.

Suddenly though and without warning his body tells him that it has taken him as far as it can.  Human flesh is all he is. The journey has been hard, a testimony to what his body can endure. But now he is spent. With the last vestiges of strength and will power he manages to complete the final mile. Standing in the grand temple he is elated.  His euphoria is however, short lived. For standing ahead of him, receiving blessing from the prophets are his companions from his journey's start. They had fallen back. Now though they stood before him. Their robes embellished with the insignia of the blessed, the chosen. Their bodies showing no scars of struggle, of the hardship he has endured. They had taken another route, one that was more expedient. A route where effort was not the currency required. A trail where favors, gold and influence had paved an easier quicker route and where struggle was a forbidden word. Yet, they revived the blessing, the acclaim, the veneration of their peers.

Dejected the pilgrim turns his back on the temple. Leaves behind the idolatry. He walks from the great square with all its pomp and wanders with heavy heart back towards the paths end. Mindlessly his steps take him back along the route he has traversed. In solitude he makes his way back.This time the path is familiar but seen from another perspective. He notices things that he had not seen previously. The new perspective allows him to appreciate the wonder of his surroundings. Now, with his mind unburdened by the urgency of completing his pilgrimage he can begin to see. A calmness descends upon him and for the first time he feels at one with his surroundings. He is not making a journey now, he is part of the journey. Part of the landscape, the birdsong, the wind. The broken hull that was his body now begins to rejuvenate. Now, however he knows deep inside of himself that all he must do is walk. To move along the path. He realises that which he had sought had been where it always existed.  Inside of him.  In his very being he had always possessed what he needed, what made him unique, and what he could share with others. Finally, all too soon this time, he reaches the end of the path.

 Standing there contemplating which of two paths to take towards the great temple are new eager pilgrims. They ask the way. "Come " he says, " I will show you"

By Alan Ellis- Martial Artist

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