In the past few weeks I have had the honor and privilege of being trained personally in the weight room of our local YMCA. Noriko, a friend, has taken the basic weight lifting circuit and "bumped it up" a level or two. She has shown me how to engage the muscles I said I wanted to focus on by showing me through example and telling me what I should be doing, while praising me when I do the exercise correctly. For example, while I have prided myself in having a good pair of legs, she showed me new exercises and ways of working muscles I never knew I had. Of course, as a result of the day we worked on my legs, they were jelly for the rest of the day.
What I re-learned from Noriko is a lesson I am constantly re-learning with pilgrimage: it only works by taking people by the hand and showing and telling them, in the very context in which you want them to learn about an art or practice, what is behind the art and act of working-out...and pilgrimage.
Then yesterday, while strolling through the new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism, wandering among the works of beautiful art by Monet, Courbet, Renoir, and Childe Hassan, that I almost bumped into three women who were speaking, er, French! By that, I mean two of the women were learning to speak in conversational French by a personal trainer-of-sorts, who was teaching these two women French in front of a French impressionist painting! In other words, as Noriko was teaching me the finer arts of lifting weights in the context of the weight room, the French tutor was teaching French in a very French context, viewing French art!
I proposed, in depth and great detail, the art and act of teaching the gestures of pilgrimage in the context of life's pilgrimage in both CHRISTLY GESTURES (Eerdmans, 2003), and SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM (W/JKP, 2007). I was reminded of Henry Carse taking Dean and me up to a bluff overlooking the Sinai desert, and asking us, "What is a miracle?" as we looked out over the miracle of God's creation. Our discussion of what is a miracle took place in a land in which the tracts of pilgrimage, including the pathway of Moses and the people of Israel, along with countless Egyptian people, have traipsed. We talked about the miracle of the mountains dancing as more than metaphor but as reality, describing the way mountains shake, rattle, and roll during and after an earthquake...as if they are dancing.
But it was in the midst of the Sinai, taking us by the hand, that Henry taught us a new way of understanding miracle...much like Noriko taught me a new way of understanding my physical exercises, by taking me by the hand and showing me a new way, and the French teacher taught her students the art of speaking conversational French!