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Graffiti going to the heart of the matter

I had just crossed a bridge doing one small section of the Camino. At the end of the bridge was a small Church. Covering the entire wall just outside the Church was the graffiti above. Basically the graffiti was suggesting that religion depends upon or focuses on money. Certainly the Camino has become something of a ‘bucket list’ item and tens of thousands of people each year journey the 800 + kilometres of the Camino across the north of Spain. Around these ‘pilgrims’ a whole tourist industry has developed. There are a plethora of relatively cheap hotels, taxis love the pilgrims and each night the bars and cafes are buzzing with every language on the planet.

You could see all of this as some sort of modern day pilgrimage and some do. For some it is a retracing of ancient pilgrimage routes to Santiago and on to Finisterre. For some it is a spiritual journey to reflect upon life, to begin anew, to learn from the past, to choose a new adventure. For many, if not most, it is is a chance to meet new friends, to enjoy the outdoors, to gain some degree of fitness.

The graffiti artist was reacting to something, to some question, to some perception, to their perceived motivation for people ‘doing’ the Camino. I don’t know their experience or motivation. All I know is that they felt strongly enough about it to graffiti a prominent wall immediately outside of a Church.

The true graffiti artist, like the poet or the writer of songs often poses the left field question. They sometimes ask the question others are afraid to ask. Sometimes they point out the pink elephant in the corner that is waving their trunk while everyone else in the room sips tea oblivious or apparently oblivious to its presence. The graffiti artist, the poet and the writer of song have so much to gift us with.

Graffiti sometimes displays the voice of the prophet amongst us. Of course, sometimes graffiti is just bored vandalism. But often, it is a voice, “crying in the wilderness” with a message it feels society, we, need to hear. Yes, “a child not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel it’s warmth!”

I lived in Melbourne for eight years and one of my favourite walks took me along a now disused old tram track. The following graffiti was on the wall – a quote from Joseph Campbell. Below it you can faintly make out words from the prophet Isaiah about the “lion and the lamb laying down together!”

“Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the centre.” Joseph Campbell

As I reflected previously, quite often when I encounter the young person who is angry, or bored, disengaged, acting out or in any way ‘against the government’ my gut question is, “What is your story?” “What is going on or has gone on in your life?” Often there is a hidden energy behind the anger, the apparent boredom, the disengagement or acting out.

We must never be afraid of this hidden energy. The restless dreamer, the rejected prophet, the odd one out all march to a different drum and our world is gifted by their music. The anger of the youth, their boredom or disengagement has a wisdom for us if we but take the time to sit with it with ears ready to learn if we but quieten our egoic need to be right.

One of the sadness’s in my life at present is the pervasive need of so many to build towers of ‘truth’ and righteousness from which we sling mud at anyone not in our camp or of our worldview. The world becomes black and white and it is all about US and ‘them’. Rarely do true humility, gentleness, acceptance, truth (real truth) and understanding in any form get off the bench and on to the playing field we call life.

What is YOUR graffiti that you would love to paint across life’s sky? What would you love to have written on your tombstone? My brother Tony, had the words, “the great communicator” placed upon my mother Zena’s tombstone – oh so true!

What is that left field question you would love to pose to get people thinking and growing in wisdom and understanding? What is that personalised bumper sticker you would love to get printed?

If it makes this world a better place, if it grows peace and understanding, if it builds true community, if it heals or makes whole, if it comes from the heart and is of love – go find a paintbrush!

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