Losing Everything I Conquered

“Village On The Mountain”, just outside of Sikasso. Looking west into the sunset, along the rim of the mountain.

1986, which was when he insisted I go on the Road to Santiago.

– You said that going on the Road to Santiago is important. For it, one must give up everything for some time: family, work, projects. And I don’t know whether I’ll find everything the same when I return.

– Indeed I hope you won’t.   (Paulo Coelo. The Warrior of the Light Volume 2 2008)

I recently found the most beautiful place to view the town that is our African home.  Just on the outskirts of this little city, only six kilometers from my home, there is a village, without power, under development, that will one day become one of the communities merged into the growing town we call Sikasso.

But not yet; it is still a village, on a small mountain, precisely its name in the Bambara language: “Village on the Mountain”.

So should I take the risk of losing everything I have conquered up to now?

– Lose what? A man only has a soul to be won or lost; apart from his life, he has nothing. Past or future lives do not matter – at the moment you are living this one, and you should do so with silent comprehension, joy and enthusiasm. What you must not lose is your enthusiasm. (Paulo Coelo. The Warrior of the Light Volume 2 2008)

Looking South to Sikasso in the distance. Mali, West Africa,

From this vantage point one can see all of Sikasso in  the distance. It was so beautiful in the daytime that I took my wife back there on the motorcycle at sunset the next day, and returned on the third day for a moonlit view just after dark, to survey the lights of the small city below me. I was impressed each time.

Never in my life have I been able to travel as a tourist much, and I admit, I have often felt resentful. The trips are always to work, to serve, to share stories. Others come to Africa for a trip, go on safaris, visit the parks, shop the enchanting markets, see the natural wonders offered all over the country. But Paulo may have helped me to see that my contemplative, and purpose driven approach to my African life and travel may indeed have its advantages too.  This resonated in many ways, because when here, I often feel melancholy; it is also very much a pilgrimage of the mind and heart.  The Village on the Mountain will be visited very often.

– I have a wife, whom I love. – (laughing) That is the most common excuse, and the most foolish of all. Love has never prevented a man from following his dreams. If she truly loves you, she will want the best for you. And anyway, you do not have a woman whom you love; the woman is not yours. What is yours is the energy of love, which you aim at her. You can do that from anywhere.  (Paulo Coelo. The Warrior of the Light Volume 2 2008)

Paulo Coelo has an interesting view of the world that captivates me. I have been enjoying reading his writings over the last year. I will give you the rest of his story below…

– And what if I had no money for the pilgrimage?

– Traveling is not always a question of money, but of courage. You spent a great part of your life going around the world like a hippie: what money did you have then? None. You could hardly afford the tickets, and nevertheless I believe they were some of the best years of your life – eating badly, sleeping at railway stations, unable to communicate because of the language, being forced to depend on others just in order to find some shelter to spend the night.

“Traveling is sacred; mankind has traveled ever since the dawn of time, in search of hunting and grazing ground, or milder climates. Very few men manage to understand the world without leaving their home towns. When you travel – and I am not speaking of tourism, but of the solitary experience of a journey – four important things occur in your life:

a] One is in a different place, so the protective barriers no longer exist. To begin with this can be alarming, but soon one gets used to it and starts understanding how many interesting things there are beyond the walls of one’s garden.

b] Since solitude can be great and oppressive, one is more open to people one would not normally exchange a single word with, back home – waiters, other travelers, hotel staff, the passenger in the next seat in the bus.

c] One starts depending on others for everything: finding a hotel, buying something, knowing how to catch the next train. One begins to realize that there is nothing wrong with depending on others – on the contrary, it is a blessing.

d] One speaks in a language one doesn’t understand, uses money whose worth one does not know, and wanders down streets for the very first time. One knows the old I, with all it learned, is completely useless in the face of these new challenges – and begins discovering that, buried deep down in one’s unconscious, there is something far more interesting, adventurous, open to the world and to new experiences.

“To travel is the experience of ceasing to be the person you are trying to be, and becoming the person you really are.”

(Paulo Coelo. The Warrior of the Light Volume 2 2008)


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