Before he gets into a discussion of the ways contemporary culture has re-defined the identity of the pilgrim, Bauman casts one last picture of the kind of world necessary for a “classical” pilgrimage to take place. “Both life and and time were made to the measure of pilgrimage,” he asserts. Bauman continues:
For the pilgrim, for the modern man, this meant in practical terms that he could-should-had-to select his point of arrival fairly early in life with confidence, certain that the straight line of life-time ahead will not bend, twist or warp, come to a halt or turn backwards. Delay of gratification, much as the momentary frustration it begot, was an energizing factor and the source of identity-building zeal in so far as it was coupled with the trust in the linearity and cumulativeness of time. The foremost strategy of life as pilgrimage, of life as identity-building, was ‘saving for the future,’ but saving for the future made sense as strategy only in so far as one could be sure that the future would reward the savings with interest and the bonus once accrued will not be withdrawn, that the savings will not be devalued before the bonus-distribution date or declared invalid currency; that what is seen today as capital will be seen the same way tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Pilgrims had a stake in solidity of the world they walked; in a kind of world in which one can tell life as a continuous story, a ‘sense-making’ story, such a story as makes each even the effect of the event before and the cause of the event after, each age a station on the road pointing towards fulfillment.
I imagine the such a system is both praised and condemned by many. It hints at something of a closed system (or at least one no where near as open as the social systems of today). I have inherited a version of this view, of course. Sure, I live thousands of miles from my family and loved ones, but I have a sense of continuity and connection that undergirds a lot of what I think, feel, and believe. I can better embrace uncertainty ahead because of the certain things behind.
The world of pilgrims- of identity-builders- met be orderly, determined, predictable, ensured; but above all, it must be a kind of world in which footprints are engraved for good, so that the trace and the record of past travels are kept and preserved. A world in which traveling may indeed be a pilgrimage. A world hospitable to the pilgrims.
Alas, that is not how Bauman’s essay ends. In fact, it takes a turn to another direction in the next sentence:
The world is not hospitable to the pilgrims anymore.
More on that tomorrow.
(image of Croagh Patrick from ireland.com)