Christmas just ended and our six wise men (yes, six, because for some reason we just find more and more magi in the bottom of our Christmas decorations boxes than we thought we had) finally reached the baby Jesus. Happy Epiphany all!
It's wonderful, really, that Christians choose to remember the pilgrimage of magi who went out there, way out there, to find Jesus. They came from the East, which means anywhere from the Mediterranean all the way to the Pacific. I imagine that they came from somewhere in Jordan, Syria, Iraq, or Iran. I'm partial to Iran, because the word magi originally came from a Persian word referring to a priestly class.
Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions them and yet we've built up a great deal of tradition around the magi. Matthew didn't say they were kings, but we've extrapolated that they were royalty from the Psalms. Matthew didn't say there were three, but we've assumed as such because there were three gifts listed. They likely didn't even visit him in the manger because Matthew says that at some point they visited the house and only Mary was there. In fact, they were at first wandering a bit because they first went to Jerusalem and snitched on Jesus to Herod before continuing to Bethlehem. Or, maybe they weren't wandering though. Bethlehem is in fact only 4 miles away from Jerusalem. It would make sense to get your papers in order before visiting a country.
I mention all this because it seems like an awful long way to go to see a baby, even if the stars suggest that you do so. We've elaborated on this simple story to a great extent because somehow we want more from it. It seems to simple and we probably want explanations.
But that's what makes a journey so confusing. A journey is all about doing. It's all action. It's easy to see because we've all taken journeys and many of us feel as though we are on one now. You walk, you explore, you struggle, you listen, you ask, you watch.
That's a whole lot of doing.
And yet, the reason we take journeys is often less clear. It's not obvious why we yearn for something, why we seek, and how we gather the courage and energy to go out of our way to find something.
And whether that goal is Jesus, self-actualization, nirvana, love, heaven, or peace, it's actually sometimes confusing and difficult to blend a life of so much action with the actual goal we seek. How do we find these lofty goals when we're busy doing human things? The goals are anything but human in so many ways. It seems contradictory because it often is.
Doing sometimes seems easier than actually being. Yes, it's arduous and intense, but doing implies that you've got some compass or guiding star or Camino de Santiago scallops to show you the way. It's actually much harder to "be" and to maintain "being".
I feel as though my life is all about doing. I do a lot. People remind me always that I do a lot. I've always felt the need to do, to keep doing. And maybe it's time to recognize, as journeys often show us, that the journey itself might be masking our ability to be rather than do.
Surprisingly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage helped me to see this. It showed me much about the importance of being present and being in the moment rather than to always be doing. I'm keenly aware that in any given hour of wakefulness, I'm reading, writing, walking, texting, photographing, talking, watching, practicing, playing, hiking, planning, meeting, or shopping.
I don't have a new year's resolution to share. But perhaps I have a new life promise that I am starting to understand. And with understanding comes the willingness to share such a promise to myself, to my family and friends, to my community, to my Creator.
It might be time to embrace myself as a human Being more than just a human Doing. After all, isn't that what Jesus is all about? To be human.