Adventure, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life

Why Are You Walking to Brazil?

When I tell people I’m walking from the US to Brazil, the very first question they ask is “why?” And when I first made the announcement, I thought I was ready with an answer: to meet the gods. It might not surprise you to find out that answer doesn’t always satisfy.

But when pressed for details, I have a hard time explaining much more than that.

The great thing about meeting the gods is that it’s a grand, vague, nigh-impossible goal. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like or if it can even be done. This is the perfect object for a journey meant to emulate the mythical heroes: a quest so big, it may just be unachievable, so the act of questing itself better be damn worthwhile.

This same quality is what makes it so hard to plan around—or relate to.

“Why are you walking all that way!?”

“To meet the gods.”

“What do you mean?”

Um.

Since it’s hard to explain, I’ve been bashful about it. I’m liable to say “It’s a spiritual quest” and leave it unanswered at all. Delving into it, especially with strangers, is not easy, so I just don’t.

But what’s heroic about that?

Not bloody much.

So I’ve been pushing myself to better define my quest. That especially means defining its purpose. A journey without a purpose is just wandering, and while that can be fun, it’s no basis for a philosophy that changes the world.

You’ve seen the beginnings of this inner struggle. I’ve resolved that I’m in no position to found a movement around this philosophy, at least not until I’ve mastered it myself. And I’ve come to understand I am a journeyman priest, with the journey deciding whether I reach true mastery of my art.

Therein lies the secret.

It’s not about choosing a cause, or following a to-do itinerary. It’s about seeking out great moments. I want to stand on windswept bluffs above the ocean, and see the birds below me. I want to sit in the shells of ruined temples, and imagine the voices of spirits. I want to bow before the shrines of new gods, in homes and houses, and introduce myself for the first time.

And if I take with me, every step of the way, my personal ideals (“the virtues”), that will change things. If I carry my insistence on standing up for those who need it, wandering becomes questing and these great moments become brief respite between action.

So what is the goal? To learn how to live the Heroic Life.

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23 thoughts on “Why Are You Walking to Brazil?

  1. That makes sense. I truthfully fail to see how a cause does not come into play in all this, but its not my quest or journey. So it would be up to you what that entails.

    I wonder. Since Lugh, your chosen God, became that by being a Hero. Maybe your quest involves seeking heroes and learning from them?

  2. Lynn Cohen says:

    I’ve recently discovered your blog and am reading with great interest, especially the more recent posts where you grapple with “what’s my goal, anyway.” I think you’re onto something very fundamental when you talk about “learning how to” (the process), vs. “going to” (the result).

    If we focus on the *process* of living a moral life (which in my world encompasses putting one’s neck on the line to do the right thing by others) – well, that’s something we can do continually, every single moment of every day. And, for the practitioner, it’s something at which we literally cannot fail. I think it’s important to keep this in mind, because there are/will be times when one questions one’s self, for various reasons.

    Lynn

    • Hi Lynn. Welcome to Rogue Priest! I’m glad you’re reading & took time to comment.

      I think you’re right, except I’m not sure I’d say we “cannot fail” through practice. Maybe that is the difference between the moral life and the heroic life. If you try daily to be moral, you cannot fail. Your heart is in it. If you try to put in 8 hours volunteering at a shelter and only end up doing 4 hours, you still did something decent and right.

      Heroism on the other hand can be a dangerous thing. If you try to help someone who’s being mugged, you might escalate it to a physical conflict. The person you’re trying to save could get stabbed or beaten. You can make things a lot worse through a lack of skill or judgment.

      Or… are you still heroic just for trying? I wonder what you think.

      • Lynn says:

        I don’t see much distinction between leading a moral life and leading a heroic life.

        To me, the moral life is defined by the individual and what others think of it or him/her for acting in accordance with their ethics is largely immaterial. Heroes are defined as heroes by other people, which may or may not reflect their personal, internal moral code. “Moral” is a personal value; “heroic” is a societal value.

        In the example you gave, I agree that a lack of skill or judgment could make the situation worse. Clearly, to intervene in a mugging without making it worse, you have to have physical skill, good reflexes, and a keen sense of observation, among other things. But, you seem to define “intervening in a mugging” as heroic by its nature. Certainly, the rescuer would be regarded as a hero by the victim, the local newspaper, etc. but does the intervener have to think of him/herself as a hero to intervene? I posit that the rescuer could simply be acting from his/her moral code, without “heroism” even entering the equation.

        • Hi Lynn, I think that is just a fundamental difference in how we view heroes. To me a hero goes far above and beyond just living a moral life. They are more than a good citizen or a good neighbor. It is a strict definition but it helps imbue that distinction with meaning.

          You can see how exactly I define heroism and some of the comments that helped hone it here, if you’re interested.

  3. Joel says:

    How many heroic stories, myths, or legends start with the hero deciding to walk, without a goal, task, or assignment? Your walk to Brazil sounds cool, but where is the opportunity for heroism? I am sure things will come up, and a spiritual journey is a goal in and of itself, but journeys have destinations, and paths lead somewhere.

    • I have a pretty clear goal. Meeting the gods may be something not everyone can empathize with, but it’s still a pretty grand and defining purpose for my quest. Add in “mastering the heroic life” and I think I’ve got a pretty full plate :)

  4. Form IS function in quests like this, and there really is no satisfying explanation. Those who ask are already seeking something different than you. In a way, it’s like the rest of the world is asking Why, and your declaration ‘I’m going to walk to Brazil’ IS the answer. Does that make sense? :P

  5. I like where your thoughts are roaming… towards a goal. No matter what you have a goal in mind but it is hard to explain it to people who don’t understand the way you think. Even I don’t always understand, yet the more you sit down and write out your thoughts, the more those thoughts take flesh and the less my imagination fills in the gaps. I discover that you are not just forming a solid plan, you are making goals. To this Capricorn, you can’t have a true quest without a goal attached to it, even if the goal is simply to quest for a goal! Keep the writing coming, Drew. I will keep on liking, supporting, and dreaming with you, my friend.

    • Oh man, Paul, you get an award! Somehow no one has ever asked me this before. What a great question.

      What will I do? I don’t have some specific request in mind. I don’t have any wishes to cast. I would want to learn from them. My patron deity, Lugh, is like a mentor to me. If I could sit at the feet of him or his kin and learn directly, that is all I would really want.

      • The funny thing is, I never asked as I figured that would be what you would do anyway. As I would do the same if I were to meet the gods (as I see no evidence of them existing or not existing I don’t know if that could be done – making your journey an interesting one to watch).

  6. Arden says:

    That seems like the most honest and forthright purpose you could possibly give yourself. Tbh I like it much better than arbitrarily attaching a charity to the cause, though I’m sure you can, and should, do a great deal of good — that’s part of the Heroic Life as you envision it, right?

    And I think that’s why when you mentioned the possibility of pursuing a charity, it didn’t sit quite right with me: because it’s part of this bigger thing, the whole reason you’re venturing forth in the first place.

    It’ll be exciting to see how your principles are going to develop and deepen as you actually live them out.

    • Thank you for commenting, Arden. yes, doing good is definitely part of the Heroic Life. I think you’re right though, I think slapping a charity on it would have been very artificial. This quest is about something mythic, and when that succeeds, then I will be in a position to do good on a much broader, deeper level.

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