(Blog post from January 2020)
Yesterday I took a walk out to the lighthouse near El Cotillo. It’s a beautiful, natural and windswept coastal area of Fuerteventura, with white horse waves breaking all around and a panoramic view that extends way out to sea and back again inland, to the mountains far beyond. It felt a little like a visual metaphor for Life itself and for what I’d experienced in the hours that had passed before.
I’d set off from home in the morning with the intention of going for a hike. I’d already decided that I would drive to Cortillo, park the car and then walk out to the lighthouse and back again, maybe stopping for a coffee somewhere, if I found a nice cafe along the way. But, when I got to the roundabout near my house, something inside me said “Go the other way” and so I did. “Ah” I said to myself “Yes, I’m heading to the mountains…a much nicer hike to do on a day like today”.
That morning, while I was pegging out the washing in the early sun, I felt a gentle breeze sweep across the garden from the direction of Mount Tindaya in the East; lifting my prayer flags and making them dance. The silent voice inside me whispered “Something is coming…” and, devoutly human, I said to myself “Maybe this means that Love is heading my way very soon!”
But, when I got to the junction with the turning for the mountain route, the voice inside said once again “Go the other way” and so I did and found myself in the picturesque town of La Oliva, passing the open doors of its beautiful Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. “You’re here” said the silent voice and so I parked in a side street near the church and smiled at the irony of what had just happened.
The day before, in the shower, I’d decided that it would be hypocritical of me to continue going to Catholic Mass, as I feel such alienation from the opening words that begin each service (and their emphasis on the congregation’s collective grievous fault and sin). I’d concluded, quite logically, “I’m not a Catholic in my heart” and that, to live authentically, I needed to find another way to be with people who believe in this force of divine love that is far greater and more powerful than us. And yet here I was, following a silent but insistent inner voice, parked in the road beside a Catholic church.
As I sat in my car, pondering whether to go inside or not, I looked to my left to see what building I’d parked in front of…’Juzgado de la Paz‘ (Court of Peace) and I smiled inwardly once again. The thoughts that had been running through my mind in the previous days were focused on this website and what it should contain…this virtual, web-based, Casa de Paz. (eg: How personal it should be; whether it should contain only general, positive and up-lifting articles, blogs and resource references and links; how much of my inner self and inner world I should share on it; how ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ it should be before I launch it and set it running, etc, etc).
I decided to go into the church.
When I entered I saw a bright, candlelit, beautiful building with a full congregation of local people of all ages, and a Mass service well underway. The priest was standing at the front of the church, smiling, arms extended and he was saying the words “Peace be with you all. Let us offer each other the Sign of Peace” which, again, made me smile at the timing of my entrance. But then, as I watched, my bemusement turned to a deeply felt emotion and, suddenly, to tears…because of what I witnessed.
And what I witnessed was Love.
Love being offered again and again. Love being given and received, with each handshake, with each smile and gentle arm squeeze, with each embrace. I saw a building lit not just with sunlight and with candles but with the radiant light of Love. And it made me feel foolish and humble, for allowing myself to be ensnared by pointless concerns about the wording of the Mass and for forgetting the bigger, wordless message behind it. The only real message of consequence that this Greater Power than Us resonates throughout our lives and world: “Love is the light in every darkness. Love is the peace you’re seeking and trying to create, if you can just suspend your judgement of the infinitely different forms it takes long enough to see it and to feel it in your heart. In every size and in every shape, Love is everywhere.“
The Mass over, I knelt in the church awhile before leaving, because I couldn’t shake the wave of emotion that had filled me and that wanted to come out in tears. I said inwardly to myself “I have no idea who I am. Each time I reach a considered and rational conclusion about what I believe and how to live my life in line with that belief, something happens to show me how pointless such rational thinking is. How am I ever going to know how to be in this world if I can’t even be sure of what I believe?”
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.”– rumi
Eventually, I drove back to the town where I’m staying and found a little coffee shop with a roof terrace, to sit and watch the horizon for a while and to let the experience fully, wordlessly, sink in. I thought about the sudden and powerful emotional reaction I’d had to what I’d witnessed in the church and of the other times a similar reaction had hit me and completely consumed me in the past. They were always sudden and unexpected and, I now saw, they were always responses to observing or receiving simple, selfless acts of Love from others. As if the Love that lives within me suddenly sees and instinctively responds to motiveless Love that it encounters in the world. The genuine Love that keeps no tally of giving and seeks nothing in return. The Love whose whole purpose is its own expression, to be brought into existence and to be made material within this world.
As I left the coffee shop to head back home my phone sounded a ‘message received’ tone and, opening it, I saw that it was a long text in French from an old Camino friend who usually writes to me in English. I sat on the car park wall and, using a translation app, began to read it, wondering what it was about. It was a thank you message for something that I’d sent to her many days before. Something that I had completely forgotten about, because it just felt like a thing that I needed to do, something I needed to create and to share with her. But what I heard in her message, and what I felt in my heart, was a light of Love and gratitude for that sharing.
Back in my car and homeward-bound, another fork in the road and another choice. “I’ve never taken this road” I said to myself “Let’s give it a go and see where it leads”. It led to a long loop around the village and a junction with the main road to Cortillo. A junction with a ‘No Right Turn’ sign, meaning that Cortillo was the only option for me to take, and so I did…and found myself, after parking in the sand dunes and walking to the beacon in the distance, standing at the foot of the lighthouse (Faro de Tostón) once again.
And, as I stood there, with the beautiful, turbulent sea crashing on the rocks all around and the strong wind, sweeping in from the distant mountains and playfully ruffling and whipping through my hair, I thought to myself “Love is like a Lighthouse…that can keep us safe in any storm“.