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Specific Pilgrimages, or Why I Write

There are several definitions to be found in the common dictionary for the word “pilgrimage.” The better known meaning refers to the journey of a pilgrim, made to a sacred place as an act of devotion. Another, somewhat looser meaning indicates any long journey, especially one undertaken for a particular purpose, such as to pay homage.

But there's a third and more open-ended definition yet which states simply: the course of life on earth. This definition encompasses something I've come to believe—that the multiple, smaller journeys of our lives, our experiences both sacred and secular, make up in sum a kind of pilgrimage through pleasures and perils towards the moment when we will pay our final—perhaps defining—act of devotion.

I believe as well that this pilgrimage, for each of us, is undertaken for a particular, a specific, reason. I couldn't proceed with the myriad, mundane steps of my own journey without believing this. That the meaning may often be opaque to us, that it may always remain so, is less important than the belief that we are tracing an inscribed rather than a random path. Even if this belief is only a placebo, for most of us, it represents a kind of salvation.

And while we are tracing this path, we like nothing better than to spin stories to pass the time. Like the travelers in The Canterbury Tales, we goad, entertain, and comfort one other with tales from our lives as we proceed down the long road. In this sharing we become more fully human, to ourselves and to each other; more forgivable: more divine.