Thursday, June 9, 2016

Day 15, 9/6/2016, Second Rest Day in Cahors

Another lazy start to the day. We encountered a full table of French pilgrims at breakfast who were starting their walk today. 

Saw more of the sights on our river walk around the entire city, including the 14th century Pont Valentre, the Maison de l'Eau (an old house on the edge of the fast flowing Lot River) and many old buildings in the historic quarter (the building where we are staying is 900 years old). 

There were several men fishing in the river and we photographed one man holding up a huge fish before releasing it. 

Gardens are a feature of Cahors, especially in the month of June when flowers are on full display. There are medallions on the pavement that take you on a tour of the 'Secret Gardens of Cahors'. One garden is full of herbs judged to have medicinal value in medieval times, another has plants and trees that are noted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. A different garden we visited this morning had a peace theme and was full of white roses and delicious fragrance. Another had flower beds on the theme of the different senses - flowers to smell, leaves to touch and plants with an assortment of berries that you could taste. 

In these couple of rest days in Cahors we've been doing lots more thinking on the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist. 

The Japanese writer, Kosuke Koyama first got us thinking about this through his talks we heard in Dunedin and his book, 'Pilgrim or Tourist'. We wonder whether it is a matter of either/or as he infers. People often state pilgrimage in glowing terms while being a tourist is frequently disparaged. For instance a sign at the entrance of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem reads:
We are hoping that:
If you enter here as a tourist, you would exit as a pilgrim.
If you enter here as a pilgrim, you would exit as a holier one.
Certainly the pilgrim perspective can help us to be better tourists. 

The pilgrim perspective is one that displays an openness to God however strong or tentative our faith might be. This openness is expressed in pilgrim prayers as in the blessing we received at the Pilgrim's Service at the Le Puy cathedral at the start of our walk:

"Be for them
Shade in the heat of the day 
Light in the darkness of the night
Relief in tiredness,
So that they may come safely, 
Under your protection, 
To the end of their journey. "

The pilgrim seeks a different kind of seeing - to see beauty in the ordinary, to see freshness in the commonplace and everyday things of life. 

Such a vision is best achieved by slowing down and cutting back our pace. Koyama again encourages such a slowing down in his book, 'Three Mile an Hour God'. He says "Walking is the proper speed and the proper posture that can prepare people to meditate ...But that which is holy must be approached slowly."

The 'slow travel' movement is also discouraging the fast tourism by which people fly into a city, dart around to see the 15 'must sees' as indicated by the brochures and then fly out. Instead they are encouraging people to stay put for a while as you gradually radiate out and discover what people do, where they buy, what they eat and to be open to the surprising, serendipitous experiences that come to you that we won't find listed in any tourist book. 

The pilgrim perspective also encourages new attitudes. In one of her many fascinating blogs, seasoned pilgrim, Lucy Ridsdale, wrote about this:

"I read a Spanish saying recorded in one of the logbooks (Porto la Reina?) of a hostel: El turista exige; el peregrino agradece. ‘The tourist demands; the pilgrim gives thanks.’ So that sparked my thinking on entitlement and gratitude, as ways of being in the world, as distinctions that shed a kind of light on what we’re facing, all of us, us all. On our planet. Now. So I’m playing at being a pilgrim, and finding a way from entitlement to gratitude."

Lucy lives in Perth and wrote a Masters degree on walking and pilgrimage. She earthed it in her walking of the Bibblemun Track in Western Australia. She entitled her thesis: 'From Entitlement to Gratitude'. 

We love the idea of moving from entitlement to gratitude, whether a tourist or a pilgrim.

El turista exige; el peregrino agradece.

Geoff & Lyn Pound 

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