“Cutting the bloody cord…the delirious exhilaration of independence, a rebirth backward in time and into primeval liberty, into freedom in the most simple, literal, primitive meaning of the word, the only meaning that really counts.”
~ Edward Abbey
Pilgrims take pilgrimages. Mecca. Jerusalem. Rome. These are mythic places that for centuries have been the destination of many an adventurer. Their very names evoke something of the sacred. Pilgrims know that the phrase “the journey is as important as the destination” is far more than some New Age mantra; it’s the truth. It is a chance to be swallowed up by something larger than yourself, somewhat like Jonah experienced in the belly of the whale. And while you’re on it (or in it) profound changes occur. Hopefully, you put away some childish things and rediscover some of the childlike. Then all of a sudden you’re spewed back onto the dry land of normalcy to live the rest of your life with the taste of the sea on your lips and the imprint of the whale on your heart.
What is the American equivalent of Mecca? Rome? My vote goes to the Grand Canyon. While a few might see it as an oversized hole in the ground, many more view it as a place of divine grandeur and beauty. I’ve read of people seeing it for the first time and being moved to tears, even kneeling to kiss the ground. Two of my best friends and I took a week in October of 2002 to intentionally descend into the belly of the earth and have it spit us out four days later. We had tackled trails and hills before, but nothing as daunting as the Grand. Sure, 2002 may sound like a long time ago, but in the journey of a man’s life, it’s not.
Many things were going on in our individual lives at the time. On some level we knew this was a life pilgrimage; at least we do now. We had to take this trip, a serious stepping-out-of-time in order to remind ourselves what’s worth a damn, and what’s not. We each needed to wrestle with some angels and demons at the edge of the Colorado River and not let go until they blessed us. Or wounded us. Or both. So we did.
We hiked out four days later. To the casual observer, we looked pretty much the same. But to someone willing to pay attention, we were radically different men than when we descended. We shed some excess baggage in the canyon, and we experienced dreams and visions. When we stepped back up over the rim, some things had the clarity of the Arizona sky. And some things were seeds just beginning to struggle for life, seeds that are just now starting to bloom well over a decade later.
But for anything like that to happen, you have to get in the car and drive away from responsibility for a time. You have to cut the bloody cord.
-John D. Blase