Someone once said (Christopher Hitchens, maybe?) that ‘Everyone has a book in them waiting to be written’. While this may be true, many never commit their experiences onto paper for others to consider. But why?
I think the reasons are many and varied, but I would like to discuss just one today. Very simply, writing a book is a long, hard and difficult task. It is enjoyable, unquestionably, but it is also time-consuming, frustrating and arduous in equal measure.
Let us not get carried away though with the ‘hardships of writing’, as if it is some noble cause or behemothic life challenge only a few ever conquer. I only use authorship as an example because it is on my mind as I wait for the launch date for my book, ‘The Hardest Path’. There are other, more pressing, life challenges that require much harsher sacrifice. Parenting, surviving illness, negotiating daily life around a pittance, to name just a few.
The difficulty in task matters not. What is challenging for you may not be challenging for me and vice versa. A pensioner with severe arthritis and osteoporosis may endure as much hardship crossing the kitchen to make tea as someone in their mid-twenties taking on their fifth Ironman challenge of the year. It is the self-growth and private lessons that are learned from each challenging endeavour and committed effort that has value.
My book, ‘The Hardest Path’, is about the life lessons that I discovered while walking Japan’s most sacred trail: the 88 Temple pilgrimage. It was a life-changing experience because it was life-affirming, yet in the ten years since walking it and applying its wisdom to my everyday routines, I have come to realise that these lessons can be learned elsewhere too.
We are all on a pilgrimage of sorts; a path that we tread that offers us highs and lows along its long and varied way. And within the twists and the turns, if we face enough of them, it is possible to get an inkling into the wonders, majesty and magic of life.
But, I think, the path must be traversed long and far before insight happens. Wisdom is not a reward for penance served, but because it is only through consistent effort that we move through the naivetés of beginner-hood, melt away the ego of intermediate-hood and finally, battered and worn, reach the shores of deep experience. Here, at last, we can hear the whispers of life’s secrets. They were, of course, with us all along yet we were too busy to pay them heed.
What then, will be your pilgrimage?