“You don’t choose a life. You live one.” —The Way
Every journey is a pilgrimage. We may seek different things–love, healing, truth, knowledge of ourselves–but it is at the places where our journeys intersect that we find our answers. No one journeys alone.
The Way, written and directed by Emilio Esteves and starring Martin Sheen, is a beautiful illustration of the soul’s pilgrimage. It chronicles the story of a man, Tom, who decides to walk the famous Camino de Santiago, from France through Spain, in honor of his son’s desire to complete that historic journey. Along the way, he meets fellow pilgrims in search of their own answers, their own healing, their own truth.
It is a wonderful story, and it can be viewed on more than one level. The first is the story of a grieving man and the adventures he encounters, the people he befriends. On another level, Tom’s companions can be seen as manifestations of his own soul, reflections of the deeper yearnings for peace we all share. (*Warning: I will not give away any plot details, but some of the themes discussed below may foreshadow the story.)
There are three companions. The first is an Irishman, a writer suffering from writer’s block, seeking stories. The second, who usually wears red, walks the Camino de Santiago to lose weight for his wife, and is described by the Irishman as one “for whom kindness is an instinct.” The third, a woman, claims that her journey is to quit smoking, but her past is full of abuse and loss.
They are the mind, the heart and the body. Just as Dorothy’s companions sought a mind, a heart and courage from Oz, Tom’s companions seek healing of the very same things.
The journey of the mind is always to learn to trust our creativity, and to receive permission, whether from ourselves or others, to speak the truth.
The journey of the heart is to discover that the love we long for is already within us. We must learn to love ourselves as well as we love others.
And the journey of the body is to find the courage to heal from our past traumas and rise again.
At the center of the story is the soul. Tom is a true pilgrim, because he does not journey for himself, but for another. What he must learn is that all journeys are taken together. Which is to say, that to journey for another is also to journey for oneself.