The Truth About Solvitur Ambulando

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It’s a phrase I’d never heard until just a few months ago. Solvitur ambulando.

A well-read and accomplished friend who’s already thru-conquered the Appalachian Trail made the simple post on a recent social media thread where I’d let the waiting world know I was out on a practice hike. Solvitur ambulando, he wrote, succinctly.

I was embarrassed not to know the Latin phrase, and too curious not to look it up. I’m sure that’s probably what he intended.

“It is solved by walking.” … solvitur ambulando. How lovely, and how true.

“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” ~ Thomas Merton

I never even thought much about pilgrimage until the seventh grade when a social studies teacher I had a slight crush on taught about Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam where some two million religious faithful trek to Mecca each year. To a young kid who thought mostly about basketball and what was for supper, something like religious pilgrimage seemed a distant and “foreign” practice  mostly undertaken by crazed zealots in far away lands.

It was 32 years later until I made a random click on a movie simply called The Way Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.00.33 AMwhen I learned that pilgrimage went beyond something people pursued in biblical times. It’s actually been going on for thousands of years.  And I was hooked. I didn’t know when, or how, or even why. But it was on, and I knew it.

Emilo Estevez and father Martin Sheen teamed in 2010 to create The Way, the story of a father who heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the camino de Santiago, and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Along the journey he discovers the difference between “a life we live, and a life we pursue.”

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Pilgrimage – in its purest form undertaken on  foot – is, in fact, a religious rite shared by nearly all the world’s faiths.  A pilgrimage takes our shared metaphor of life as a journey, in which a lone sojourner may struggle with physical challenges, emotions, and hope through the wilderness, and turns it into a concrete, bodily experience. It converts the abstract into a tangible path, with real goals and obstacles and pain and joy.

A pilgrimage like the camino de Santiago can be as tangential as an adventure/vacation, or as solemn as a time purely dedicated to commune with God.

Whatever issue the pilgrim finds on his heart, … solvitur ambulando … it can be solved by walking.

I’ve certainly found it to be true in my training hikes. Several hours, several times a week out walking with blue skies, trees and a worn, winding footpath have freed up my mind and spirit in a way that I now covet. God and I are talking, and sharing thoughts, and I can feel His guidance taking me in a purposeful direction.  Together, we are solving things by walking. Solvitur ambulando.

It’s now 22 days to departure and the training is entering a new phase. It’s a lovely fall Saturday in Arkansas and 13 miles await.

I wonder what we’ll solve today? Solvitur ambulando.

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