Just a Perfect Day

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Life & Travels, Thoughts | 1 Comment »

I just ordered a good tasty Starbucks size coffee in a hipster cafe somewhere in a modern Damascus district. As I took the first sip and the first centimeter of chocolaty foam vanished down my throat a little slogan appeared inside the cup, it said “just a perfect day”. Made me think, “yeah, what is a perfect day for me now?”, it’s a good place to reflect about the inner changes that this journey has brought about. First of all I’m a child and a slave of my home culture, I cannot deny it and I wonder if this will ever change. I prefer a European style cup of coffee to the Turkish and Arabic tea or whatever it might be and so I always end up searching for some piece of home in any place I go, even if it comes with quite a massive price tag. But traveling is so much about sensing other vibes and tastes, to drink at the fountains of different cultures, and walking is one of the most intense forms of doing so. So what have the cultures taught me that I wandered through, how much have they taught me to redefine what “a perfect day” is.

The first change about living as a nomad is that the event horizon shifts so much closer and life becomes really just about the current day or the next three days but not much more. Any plans that try to control more than a few hours just dissolve into a kinda cloud of uncertainty. To be realistic, this change is not permanent and will probably reverse itself once I’m settled again but it’s the crucial environment for a true traveler to learn the lessons cultures have to offer. The heart begins to beat in a different rhythm, which is the rhythm of the people one is living with. Suddenly there’s a freedom to reflect and step closer to oneself. Because if you are genuinely open to listen, the countless cultural differences just teach about all your quirks and strengths that were so well accustomed to your home and have blended in so well that your true character has no problem hiding. We all wear masks… So as a pilgrim I stepped into a life style that opened a Pandora box of the deepest self reflection I’ve ever faced. Don’t mistake freedom to reflect with freedom though. I’ve said already before that I did not find freedom in living “free”. More so it’s a burden. It’s no secret that if you step closer to yourself, first, all you find is ruins. Crystal and I call it the pain of existence, or simply despair (eternally thankful for Kierkegaard). Thus, being now only 12 walking days away from Jerusalem, I cannot say it will be a triumphal entry, more so an ascent to Golgotha, just as traditionally a Jerusalem pilgrimage ends at the grave church of Christ it is more in the spirit of death than of life. Until now it’s been an incredibly hard journey, walking so far is only an external analogy of the true hardship my soul is going through. If you know about my sickness at the beginning of this year and then the baby, I can tell you this has only been the beginning. So to tell you what now a perfect day is, I would say it’s a day where I feel I have faced this pain of existence and not avoided it. And this is how the pilgrimage has been helpful, at home I avoid myself and the means to do so have been sanctioned by our culture. Be it music, movies, friends, work or whatever that makes up the fabric of the “west” it’s hard to recognize how I hide in it and harder to avoid it.

The first part of the walk, from Zurich to Istanbul, was a slow dismantling of false hopes that I put into my future and possible vocation. I started off hoping to impress myself with this walk and others. The first great confrontation with myself came in the mountains of Croatia where I decided to abandon those ideas and to be completely plan less. Those who know me know how stubbornly goal orientated I am and how much of my life fuel exists of having something to achieve. To decisively abandon the hope to find meaning in a “purpose driven life”, in the way we westerners understand this phrase, was also my first break with protestantism and the way I understood religion all my life. A time of drifting freely began, wherever the wind would take me. Surprisingly it took me back home for one and a half years. It was and utterly hard time full of yearning for Jerusalem, or more for what this place had become a symbol for. The way led into ever stronger depression that hasn’t loosened it’s grip even until now. It’s deep under the hood so most people who meet me do not see it. I use the word depression because you might be able to relate to this word better than despair but the latter is what this is really about. I will spend more time to reflect deeper on the events that have caused the current state of my soul because I feel I cannot yet see clearly the whole path behind me. What is especially interesting are the specific cultural challenges that have continuously pushed me to face myself…

This post is left inconclusive intentionally since I have not made it to Jerusalem yet. I wanted to let you in on my state, and Chrystal’s experiences is similar, as we walk the final part of this pilgrimage. Remember us in your thoughts and prayers.

To be continued…


One Comment on “Just a Perfect Day”

  1. 1 phil said at 6:08 am on November 20th, 2009:

    Excellent post and insights!
    I was just back in that Switzerland and now recognized those “hideouts” that our culture offers or even suggests ever much more (..and I utilized them). An environment that is so influential, subtly manipulative and totally complacent about it scares me.


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