How do you explain the sort of national psychosis we are experiencing, where 74 million people loudly and proudly affirmed their break with sentience and decency at the ballot box, and another 100 million too entitled, lazy, disenfranchised, or cynical to even bother?
The unapologetic racism, to anyone with even a drop of non-white blood is not only unsurprising, but predictable, and with it the vindictiveness and egregious cruelty. The break with objective reality is harder to parse, as the futures of those in question vanish, their coffers are looted, and they die horribly and alone from a virus they refuse to believe in. How do you make sense of it? You don’t.
When reason and logic fail, turning inward seems apt. In Timothy Egan’s book, Pilgrimage To Eternity, he retraces the Via Franchesina, the foot journey first made by Archbishop Sederic the Serious in 990 from his home in Canterbury to the Vatican in Rome. Egan is motivated in part by historical curiosity, but more by a personal existential crunch; the death of his mother, the loss of youth, increasing political insanity, and a reckoning with his own lapsed and conflicted Irish Catholicism.
Written the year before the pandemic, it is a narrative I would’ve been drawn to in the best of times. I’m German on my father’s side and Mexican on my mother’s and I live an hour from the U.S.-Mexico border. There is a certain affinity between Mexicans and the Irish, as the immigrant soldiers in the U.S. Army who deserted to Mexico to form the San Patricio brigades understood. Catholic faith, certainly, but both peoples are the bastards of history; trampled on, colonized, starved, exploited, dehumanized.
After centuries of oppression, the hunger of the potato famine resulted in the Irish diaspora to the U.S. For many Mexicans, the trigger was NAFTA. Both cultures share a sense of fatalism and a fondness for revelry, music, language, alcohol, martyrdom, and mischief. If Shane MacGowan, notorious frontman for Irish rebel hooligans, the Pogues, had grown up in Mexico instead of London, he would be canonized.
Is there a possibility of personal reconciliation between the myths of one’s childhood and the troublesome realities of adulthood? Is there peace of mind to be found exploring remote mountaintop abbeys and examining the bone shards, scraps of cloth, and locks of hair of ancient saints? Can a progressive Pope restore moral integrity and heal the wounds of historic intolerance and corruption by opening the shutters, drawing back the drapes, and allowing light into a stifling, faded institution?
Daniel Hosteter is a professional woodworker, musician, dog lover, and rabble-rouser. He is a songwriter and founding member of two bands: The Determined Luddites and Big Galoot.
Read the Book:
Timothy Egan's Pilgrimage to Eternity, among other books by our contributors, can be found on our bookshelf on Bookshop.com, the anti-Amazon, aimed at keeping independent bookstores alive.
I’m A Pilgrim: Ry Cooder
Pilgrim’s Tale :: Victoria Williams & Julian Lennon
Pilgrim ::: Steve Earle & Del McCoury
I Am A Pilgrim ::: The Byrds
Pilgrim of Sorrow ::: Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers
Journey To Eternity ::: Sharam Nazeri, Hafez Nazeri