Sunday, December 12, 2010

Unfolding Openness

What does it mean to be a henro? What does it mean to walk the henro trail? Forget any definition that includes someone who walks the trail simply because it's a beautiful walk in rural Japan. Forget the trail that priests foolishly promote as they push for recognition as a World Heritage Site. Forget the maps and guidebooks. And when you forget all of that, what's left? What does it mean to be a henro?

Victor Turner wrote about 'liminality' when he wrote about pilgrimages and pilgrims. When you set out on the trail you temporarily set aside the 'you' that you were before becoming a henro, you set aside any 'you' altogether, crossing over a threshold into new, uncharted territory where the line between you and the experience disappears altogether.

As the trail is walked an experience unfolds. Consequently, you unfold — not 'you,' but the henro. And in that unfolding, the henro is transformed. Or, is it more appropriate to say that in that unfolding, the henro is defined. Or, is it even more appropriate to say that the 'henro' is that unfolding, unfolding? Maybe that's what i'm trying to get at.

Unless there is some understanding that it is the openness to experience that is the henro, that a 'henro' is this openness itself, unfolding as the experience progresses, then i'm not sure you understand what it means to be a henro on Shikoku's trails.

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