(Misfit) Pilgrimage: The Practice

by tjbeitelman

I exist elsewhere. Several elsewheres, in fact. In one of these elsewheres, I have a blog, and on that blog, one of the things I do is document my (so-called) “Misfit Pilgrimages.”

In fact, I’m now in the process of, well, processing a recent pilgrimage to New York.

A while back, in that other elsewhere, I used a lot of words to define the essential nature of the (so-called) “Misfit Pilgrimage.”

But now, here, in this elsewhere, I’ll admit there’s one word I’m nervous about using: “misfit.” That’s a moniker I own, for a variety of reasons. (“I exist elsewhere. Several elsewheres, in fact.”) That said: you certainly don’t have to own it. I mean, you can if you want to, but you don’t have to.

It’s the pilgrimage part that’s important.

So here’s what I wrote about this kind of pilgrimage in that aforementioned elsewhere:

Pilgrims seek. That’s a New Age word (seek, that is) and so maybe it’s out of fashion. But it’s what I do and I don’t have a choice. Seeking is — for better and for worse — a day-to-day, here-and-now thing for me. But it also takes the form of grandiose journeys I set out for myself on a periodic basis. Yes, these are often always personal in nature, and almost always there’s a certain measure of nostalgia involved. The goal is — I’m not ashamed to say — reaching some new insight about who I am and how I need/want to conduct myself in the world. Simple. But also very, very difficult.

Difficult because I’m not very good at it. I’m not making fast progress. It comes in fits and starts, if at all. Two steps forward, one step backward (at best). I would surely make some sort of (different? better? faster?) progress if I just sat still. But that’s not what I think I need (and know I want) to do. So I go. And deal with the consequences. Whether I want to or not. As a hedge to that spiritual bet, I try to make art as I go. In the quite likely event that enlightenment never comes.

Surprisingly (or not), most of that still stands for me — the motivation, the explanation, the self-assessment — with one important exception:

I’ve realized that, for me, the “make art as I go” part isn’t a hedge to the spiritual bet: it is the spiritual bet.

On these trips, I notice, I document, and in the process, I generate of lot of words, sounds, images. (Mostly that’s because I really love words, sounds, images, and because changing my coordinates really helps me generate them.) Sometimes those words, sounds, and/or images coalesce toward an extended creative project. Sometimes not. Always — always — the process yields unexpected personal, creative, and spiritual insights (along with a startling number of jaw-dropping serendipitous encounters) that stick with me long after I’ve returned “home.”

What does that mean for you?

Good question. I don’t know. Maybe this:

  • If you want to go, go. Anywhere. You’ll know where. It’ll be obvious.
  • It can be somewhere far away. Or not.
  • It can be somewhere new or somewhere familiar.
  • You can go alone. Or not.
  • Your motivations, explanations, self-assessments are yours.
  • Your motivations, explanations, self-assessments may change. Midstream.
  • Intention is overrated. That’s never more true than it is on a pilgrimage.
  • If you want to make art as you go, make art as you go. If not, don’t.
  • Notice. Be open.
  • Try to document. Somehow. (When in doubt: a 30 Things can work wonders.)