They came from the East and were on their way to Compostela (field of stars). Although they arrived separately –Yukari a Saturday morning, the other two the following day: Helène in the morning and Francesca in the afternoon–, I learned they had met each other on the trail.
I had opened a business on the camino de Santiago because a lot of interesting people do this ancient pilgrimage. I wished a wise old man –a journalist, an editor, an important business man or a famous intellectual – would pass by, become interested in my work, and use his contacts to help me divulge my message. Instead, three young ladies showed up…
A sign outside my shop says, “Food for pilgrims. Food for thought for spiritual pilgrims”, another, “Genesis, a shop run by a Belgian pilgrim and guide” and a third, “Everything a pilgrim needs”. My business is right on the camino, and since I know what pilgrims look for, I assumed it would be a success. I was wrong.
There were several things I had not taken into account. One was that a lot of people go straight to a big supermarket, even though it is further away, because they assume that a small shop has less variety and is more expensive. Another was that with my shop being only three meters wide, and with shopping windows on either side of the entrance, pilgrims often don’t notice it, since other notice boards attract their attention. And yet another was that by walking many kilometers per day pilgrims get this urge to push forward –like they are on a mission–, and therefore often find it difficult to stop.
This ‘drive’ is rather interesting because we can compare walking the camino with living our life. A lot of people are so focussed on getting there –making it to Santiago or obtaining a financial stability– that they pay little attention to what they encounter on the way. These three young women were different because they welcomed discoveries.
When Yukari walked into the shop, she immediately started reading the information panels in the shopping window. Therefore I introduced myself. I told her that the photos and panels she was looking at had to do with my previous job; that for many years in the spring and the fall I had guided Americans on walking holidays in Spain, and in July and August had taken Spaniards on a Silk Road expedition through Central Asia. I informed her that by reflecting upon life during my off season, I had come up with an own philosophy.
Yukari had been reading the panel ‘A CRUCIAL LESSON’. With Japan being the only country that has suffered the consequences of nuclear bombs, she found it easy to understand that the invention of nuclear weapons is a milestone in mankind’s history; that these weapons not only teach us that we are capable of destroying ourselves, but also that a society that doesn’t live in harmony –like ours– is eventually bound to do so, since weapons continually become more sophisticated and once there are weapons of mass destructions it is only a matter of time before they are used.
I told Yukari that although oftentimes people find this a pessimistic view upon our society, I consider it a realistic view, and that by pointing out that to guarantee our survival we must discover why we have conflicts with each other and with our environment, it is even an optimistic view, and that I stressed this fact with the panel below that said,
LIVING IN HARMONY WITH THE OTHER PEOPLE
AND WITH OUR ENVIRONMENT IS POSSIBLE.
The first paragraph of ‘A CRUCIAL LESSON’ says, “In the Information Age is ignorance is a choice. An ignorant person is not an idiot, but someone who, often deliberately, ignores certain information.” I told Yukari that although our politicians, philosophers, scientists and theologians aren’t idiots, they ignore this important lesson that mankind has to learn. I informed her that I had called my shop ‘Genesis’ because that book recognizes the fact that a society that doesn’t live in harmony is eventually bound to destroy itself. I said that with asking why we have conflicts with each other and with our environment being the same as asking what the forbidden fruit refers to, we have a good reason for studying this book.
Not being a Christian –there are three millions of them in Japan– Yukari was not familiar with the Bible, but she had nevertheless heard of the story of Adam and Eve living in paradise. I told her that without this story, without the assumption that our ancestors once lived in harmony, there would be no Bible. I pointed out that with this book offering us an ideal for the future - something to strive for-, one would expect all people who long for a better society to study that book. That this isn’t the case, I explained, is because people assume that this book holds the word of God, and says nothing but the truth, and it is this assumption that made religious authorities come to erroneous interpretations that have scared many people away.
Yukari, a 25 years old with a warm personality, spoke very good English. She had lived in the USA, where her father, who had passed away a few years earlier, had worked as a banker. As a child she had wondered why people had conflicts with each other and she had dreamed of a wise old man, who knew the answers to all of her questions. She wondered whether I was this person. I told her that in my childhood I had also asked that question and had also dreamed of a wise old man. For me that question and that daydream simply tell us we long for wisdom. Assuming that a wise old man can help us is simply anticipating that someone before us asked the same questions and already discovered the answers. Assuming that this person is old, is not only because it takes time to obtain wisdom, but also because he may have lived a long time ago. I told her that in my opinion the author of Genesis is that wise old man.
When Helène, from Burgundy, made it to my shop, she also spend some time reading the information panels in my shopping window. Again I came from behind the counter and introduced myself. I told her about my philosophical circuit, inside the shop, which offers a sequence of thoughts that reflect upon why we have conflicts with each other and with our environment. Since Genesis associates the end of harmony with eating a Forbidden Fruit, this circuits starts with, ‘THERE IS FAST FOOD, BUT THERE IS NO FAST WISDOM.’ and ends with, ‘A HEALTHY BODY AND MIND REQUIRE A HEALTHY DIET. DRUGS ARE LIKE MEDICINE. INSTEAD OF TAKING THEM, WE SHOULD ASK WHAT MAKES US SICK.’
THERE IS FAST FOOD, BUT
THERE IS NO FAST WISDOM.
TO GRASP CERTAIN IDEAS, WE
HAVE TO BE READY FOR THEM.
IGNORANCE AND ARROGANCE
OFTEN GO TOGETHER.
WE REGARD OURSELVES AT
THE HEAD OF CREATION, BUT
POLLUTE IT AND ARE CLOSE
TO DESTROYING IT.
The first four panels point out that to obtain wisdom humility is important. Often when I refer to them, I explain that on the third panel I had thought of adding “and are at the origin off all dogmas”, but had left it out, because some people would find that offensive and stop reading.
IMITATING THE BEHAVIOUR OF
THE OSTRICH IS NOT THE
BEST WAY OF DEALING WITH
TO BE ABLE TO SOLVE A
PROBLEM, WE FIRST
HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT WE
HAVE A PROBLEM.
The next two panels refer to what I explained in ‘A CRUCIAL LESSON’. People ignore that a society that doesn’t live in harmony is eventually bound to destroy itself, because they see no sollution: they think that harmony on earth is impossible. However, to find a sollution, we first have recognize that we have a problem. And it is only then that we will realize that nobody has ever demonstrated that harmony on earth is impossible; that this is just a belief.
"CARPE DIEM" IS ALL VERY
WELL, BUT TO ENSURE A
BETTER FUTURE WE MUST
LEARN FROM THE PAST.
With the seventh panel I criticize the way a lot of people interpret ‘Carpe Diem’. There is nothing wrong with trying to have a good time, and it certainly makes no sense to let the past or the future ruin the present, but we should not become prisoners of the present. When do not learn from the past, we are bound to make the same mistakes, and when we do not see where the present is taking us, we may one day find out there is no future.
Before I comment upon the last four panels on the right side of my shop, I recommend people to have a look at the panels ‘food for thought’ and ‘three interesting ideas’.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
-Do you question own ideas (beliefs) as much as you do other people’s ideas (beliefs)?
-Has religion had a positive or negative influence on our society?
-Is science bringing us salvation or self-destruction?
-Have perhaps all religions and philosophies safeguarded important values?
-Do you believe in God because your parents do, or do you not believe in God because your friends do not?
-Would you be an atheist if you lived in a communist country and a Buddhist if you lived in a Buddhist country?
-Are heaven and hell (purgatory, reincarnation, etc.) only for people who believe in them?
-If the founders of our religions came back, would they recognize their work?
-Imagine Jesus came back. Would he be a Baptist, a Catholic, a Quaker...?
THREE INTERESTING IDEAS
1) Calling the Bible a ‘sacred’ book originally meant to recognize that it holds secrets. The idea it contains the word of God and tells the truth came later.
2) The word ‘religion’, which comes from the Latin word ‘relegere’ and means re- reading, refers to reading the Bible time and again to discover its secrets.
3) According to an old tradition, someone enlightened is able to create a mystery that reveals itself many generations later. This is the case of the Bible.
Are you ready for the secrets in the Bible? Are you willing to discover its hidden wisdom?
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG
WITH SCIENCE NOR WITH
RELIGION, BUT WITH WHAT
WE THINK THEY ARE.
SCIENCE STUDIES THE WORLD
WE LIVE IN, RELIGION STU-
DIES ANCIENT BOOKS ABOUT
THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.
HAVE PERHAPS ALL RELI-
GIONS AND PHILOSOPHIES
IDEAS AND VALUES?
DO WE HAVE TO BE FAMILIAR
WITH DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
AND PHILOSOPHIES TO UN-
DERSTAND A 'SACRED' BOOK?
Also my conversation with Helène lasted more than an hour. She told me that she had stayed a few days earlier in a Christian ‘albergue’. She said the people there were very nice, but that when you do certain things because God demands them and stay away from other things because God forbids them, you are like a slave and not necessarily a nice and responsible person. I liked that remark, and I am still reflecting upon it. My older sister once said something similar. She said that religion is for people who don't know what is right and what is wrong, and that since she knew, she didn’t need one.
I didn't converse that long with Francesca, a twenty years old from Indiana, since she made it to the shop not much before closing time. She first came to the shop with friends. When I learned they were students from a Quaker school, I told them that the year before I had guided a group from a Quaker school from Maryland, and had been impressed by how well behaved and educated they were.
As I had not seen them pay attention to the information panels in the shopping window, I didn't tell them about my philosophlical circuit. Therefore it surprised me that one of them had picked up the leaflet ‘REVELATION OR CONTROVERSY?’ Not much later Francesca came back. She told me she felt like she could talk to me for hours. Since she was familiar with the Bible, conversing with her was very interesting.
Not much later we stood in front of the panel ‘DID YOU KNOW? I told Francesca that not only Genesis, the first book of the OT, but also Matthew, the first book of the NT, held a secret and that these secrets demonstrate that originally calling a book ‘sacred’ meant to recognize that it guards secrets and that the idea it holds the word of God and says the truth is from later.
In only 10 steps I demonstrated that the dogma of the Virgin Birth has its origin in a misinterpretation of an enigma in Matthew, and this enigma instead conceals who was Jesus’ father. And in another 5 steps I demonstrated that Matthew had fooled the Christian authorities on purpose; that the same text that now reveals who was Jesus’ father, had many centuries ago made the religious authorities assume that he was born of a virgin.
A STUDY DEMONSTRATES
WE DON'T PROCESS
INFORMATION RIGHT AND
ESSENTIAL ABOUT OUR
Afterwards I referred to the first panel on the left side of the shop. I told Francesca that this study referred to the secrets in Genesis and Matthew. That our intellectuals have studied the Bible for many centuries, and neither believers nor skeptics have discovered those secrets, demonstrates they do not process information right and it is a mistake to trust ‘authorities’.
TO GUARANTEE MANKIND'S
SURVIVAL WE HAVE TO
DISCOVER WHY WE HAVE
CONFLICTS WITH EACH
OTHER AND WITH OUR
THE ULTIMATE CAUSE OF
OUR CONFLICTS IS A BAD
OURSELVES AND THE
FORCES THAT GOVERN
PEOPLE WHO HAVE
FAITH IN THEMSELVES
TRY TO UNDERSTAND
THEMSELVES AND THE
WORLD THEY LIVE IN.
Francesca had no problems with the next two panels. When we stood in front of the fourth panel, I explained what it really meant. I told her that when a Christian puts faith in a dogma, he doesn’t accept this idea because it makes sense, but because he trusts the religious authorities that defend the idea. Therefore, faith in dogmas is faith in religious authorities. When Francesca immediately understood this, I pointed out that having faith in authorites really means not having enough faith in oneself.
Humility is important to obtain wisdom. But although we must consider what seniors –wise old men– say, we must never accept something that we don't understand. When they don’t manage to explain something, they either don’t understand it well enough, or it is simply not right. Just as we learn to question our parents, we must learn to question authorities. Growing up means learning to trust our own reasoning.
I told Francesca that Jesus said that the truth will set us free, and that with the enigma in Matthew being obviously Jesus’ work, two thousand years after his death Jesus was setting us free.
THERE IS ONLY ONE
REALITY. PEOPLE SEE IT
THEY FOCUS ON
A BAD UNDERSTANDING
OF REALITY DIVIDES
PEOPLE. A GOOD
REALITY BRINGS PEOPLE
LIVING IN HARMONY WITH
THE OTHER PEOPLE AND
LIVING IN HARMONY WITH
OUR ENVIRONMENT ARE
WE NOT ONLY SUFFER
BECAUSE OF WHAT OTHERS
DO TO US, BUT ALSO
BECAUSE OF WHAT WHAT WE
DO TO OURSELVES.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
WHEN WE DO NOT LEARN
EVERYTHING THERE IS
TO LEARN FROM OUR
A GOOD PERCEPTION
OF REALITY ENABLES US
TO SEE ALL CAUSES AND
OF OUR BEHAVIOUR
WHAT ALTERS OUR
PERCEPTION OF REALITY?
WHAT MAKES US FOCUS
SO MUCH ON CERTAIN
ASPECTS THAT WE
A HEALTHY BODY AND
MIND REQUIRE A HEALTHY
DIET. DRUGS ARE LIKE
MEDICINE. INSTEAD OF
TAKING THEM, WE
SHOULD ASK WHAT
MAKES US SICK.
Regarding the last panels I offered some additional information. Pointing at the panel ‘THERE IS ONLY ONE REALITY…” I said it was because I often heard people claim that my reality is not necessarily their reality, that I explained there is only one reality, but that reality can be more complex than people realize. I gave the example of immigrants and said it is only logical that some people welcome them while others regard them as a threat. With immigrants accepting to work for less money, some 'classes' can suddenly afford certain services, while others, those who offer those services, now have additional competition, and therefore find it hard to demand decent wages or get enough work.
Referring to the panel‘LIVING IN HARMONY…’ I said that since living in harmony with the other people and living in harmony with our environment are interrelated, campaigns like Al Gore’s ‘Climate Change’ make little sense.
And in regards to the panel ‘WE NOT ONLY SUFFER.. ‘ I explained that living in harmony with our environment means to recognize its limitations, and that when we have a lot of children, we not only make it harder for our family –the more children we have the smaller their inheritence will be, and the more difficult it is for us to feed them and give them a good education–, but also for our community , since this puts more pressure on people's struggle for the resources.
Francesca would have enjoyed talking a bit more, but it was 9 pm –I had been in the shop since 7 am– and I had promised to meet up with some friends. Before she said goodbye, she encouraged me to continue ‘spreading the Word’. I liked that.
For me these three young ladies are wise women, because they asked the right questions and that is what wisdom is about. Wisdom is not knowing a lot of things, but processing information right. Therefore, we should not ignore any information. And welcoming new information is what these three wise women had done.
That Yukari, Helène and Francesca were young gave me a lot of hope for the future. Since they managed to understand my reasoning, I reckon other young people will be able to do so as well. And with the new generations understanding my ideas, I no longer have to worry about the fact that the older generations tend to ignore new information because of their prejudices. Whereas the older generations will soon belong to the past, the new generations are the future. They will change the world; they will put an end to our conflicts.