The online Oxford English Dictionary gives this as its second definition of the word “romantic”: Of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality. That’s me, at least in part. I have always been a “romantic” in this way. The Camino both challenges and affirms this romanticism in me. A few thoughts…
- A romantic sees beautiful form and color, a realist sees a rotten pear.
- A romantic meets a guide sent by the Spirit, a realist is irritated by a homeless dog.
- A romantic experiences a walk through a lush green forest, a realist suffers through a painful trek up a hill.
- A romantic remembers the beautiful countryside, a realist is frustrated with the dangerous traffic.
- A romantic worships in a space where people have brought their hopes and dreams for centuries, a realist decries a crumbling building and institution.
- A romantic delights in the stories of the many people she meets, a realist doesn’t want others to use him to unload their problems.
Now please don’t think me critical of either one of these perspectives. Life takes both romanticism and realism. Both idealism and down-to-earth decision making. So does the Camino. Good feelings and hopes won’t get a pilgrim through a 15 mile day. But without an ideal to reach for, why bother?