Giving Advice to Ohenro

… I am not a number… I am a FREE MAN!

Hello and welcome from sunny Takamatsu! The weather is still a little warm, but summer seems to be lessening its grip. The evenings are cooling down, and my dogs don’t seem too much to walk outside as much as before. Autumn really is my favourite season. It is divine. And if you are considering coming to Japan for the walk of your life around Shikoku, THIS is the season to do it. Autumn just goes on forever, and when the typhoons have settled down for the duration, you have some of the greatest outdoor walking experiences of your life.

A few things have changed for me personally this year. The first is that I turned 50. I can’t believe it myself as I still sometimes feel like a junior high school student, and sometimes I feel like I really don’t know so much, or that I should have studied or tried more up until now. But the other side of being 50 is that I am on the cusp of being “respectable” or “seasoned” or “grizzled” or something like that… It’s a blast, and it’s a riot. But I feel good, and I am grateful for health and a sense of humour relatively intact.

Maybe there is something about being half a century that I am finding that “my advice” is sought out, and much more so than I expected, or particularly enjoy. It’s a new thing, and I do not particularly think I have much “advice” to give anyone, about anything. But life does seem to kick you down the road where you need to be sometimes.

At my half-century mark, I am a boss of a company my wife and I created. We run language schools and serve universities, high schools, junior highs, elementary schools, and daycares. I love it. I love our work, our team, our students, and every time I sit with kids and make them laugh while encouraging them, and revealing to them, how smart they really are.

In the past I’ve been a university professor (in another life), a teacher, a counsellor for street kids, a guide, a coach, a karate sensei, a writer, and a terrible guitar player. I’ve had a lot of hats on my balding head, but I never thought that I wore them to become “authoritative” or an “expert”. I still feel like I am flailing about in all my interests and professions. I’m still learning. I’m still “tripping up the stairs”.

I don’t think that this is particularly “modest”. I am just basically not a master at so many different things. But I have fun as I go along, stubbornly.

And maybe there is something in my half-century old spine that is still that teenager in the 1980’s that could not be told what to do. I have always rejected authority. I never like being told what to do and often ignore “sage counsel”. I have defied both church and state. I have “rocked the Casbah” and I might do it again.  I’m not an anarchist, but I’d rather die free than live in a cage. I rage against the machine, but now with dad jokes, mirth, and pint of beer.

So, as we are working on this Ohenro project with local business, government, and financial institutions, and there are various groups and interested individuals, who have proffered themselves as “experts” and “authority” on what newcomers to the experience of pilgrimage ought to know and ought to do and ought to feel. They clamber for adulation and spotlight. They bow their heads in mock obsequiousness, chant the “Heart Sutra” in public, yet backbite, make ultimatums, and gossip in private. They enter the room and it’s much more of a “waving about their flimsy credentials” than figuring out how together we can work best towards a common purpose. Honestly, it’s gross.

It’s a sad state sometimes when “politics” and jockeying for position distract us from the important task of making this incredible Shikoku Pilgrimage project something accessible, enjoyable, and meaningful for those who come to walk the miles. I don’t want to have my time and energy wasted in vain and frankly, vulgar, pursuits.

I’m too old to be baited out for public nonsense, but am still stubbornly set on trundling ahead, and just doing my job. And that job is to be of service to my fellow human creatures, unapologetically, unflinchingly, and to see whatever project I am in to completion. I cannot be deterred. There’s a lot of people out there who would love to learn more about this incredible thing in Shikoku. My job is to get to as many of them as possible.

So, if you are a soon-to-be, or already-here-in-Shikoku pilgrim, you are most heartily welcome here. You do not need to bow to authority. I don’t think that is what a pilgrimage of “self-discovery” and “self-exploration” is all about. You just may want to get on the road and find your own way. You don’t need to be told how to show respect, how to show kindness and gratitude, how to appreciate the culture and how to be a good person. I’ll bet that you already have a good handle on most of that. And if you don’t know yet, you’ll find out just fine, all by yourself.

And I’ll cheer for you! I always do.

If you need additional information to read or watch, please come out and check out our Facebook GROUP (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1318545221639576/) or our Facebook PAGE (https://www.facebook.com/Shikoku-Pilgrimage-Your-Spiritual-Journey-in-Deep-Japan-101681104549470). I would love to hear your experiences, see your photos, enjoy your videos, and learn from you.

Because isn’t that we ought to be doing anyway, learning from one another?

Your comments are most welcome, and feel free to email me if you are so inspired:

cometokagawa@gmail.com

Thanks for listening to me rant a little here.

Travel safe and travel well dear pilgrims.

Mark

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