One of the most sacred places I have had the good fortune to visit is the Island of Iona, which sits off the west coast of Scotland.
I will have more to say about Iona at a later time and why it is so sacred, but by way of introduction let me note that this is the island upon which Saint Columba established a monastery and from there introduced a Celtic Christian spirituality that covered Scotland and Northern England.
I recently had the unexpected good fortune of visiting Iona once again.
As Iona is an island the journey to get there would, as you might expect, include some time on a boat. However, in order to get to the ferry that takes one across the Sound of Iona one first has to traverse the island of Mull. As Mull is an island you would be correct if you assumed that one would need to take a boat in order to cross the waters to the Isle of Mull. So, in order to reach the Holy Isle of Iona I caught the train from Glasgow to Oban, the ferry from Oban to Craignure, Mull, the bus across Mull to the “port” of Fionnphort (maybe 20 houses) in order to catch the ferry to Iona. All through the phenomenally spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands.
As Scottish islands go Mull is rather large. To traverse Mull one must travel 37 miles. However, to drive those 37 miles takes well over an hour because the road is a single track. So, one travels on a regular size bus, which can gain some speed as it drives on this one-lane road only to come to a screeching halt as it approaches a car coming in the opposite direction on this one-lane road. At this point one of the vehicles has to find a designated passing place and pull over to allow the other vehicle to pass. Sometimes this involves reversing, or several cars reversing to one of these designated spots. All of this can make for a very long 37-mile journey if one meets a number of cars coming in the opposite direction. And this is before we begin to take into account the number of sheep wandering along and/or crossing the road.
As I sat on this bus crossing Mull and watching this dance between cars and the bus, vehicles coming to a stop and reversing or darting quickly into a by-way to allow another to pass and continue along with their journey, I found myself considering how perhaps this way of driving might be the singular most effective training for how it is we are to behave as human beings.
For, I thought, what would happen if neither vehicle moved? What if both were so intransigent, so determined that the other was in the way, so insistent that their journey was the more important that both vehicles simply refused to budge! What the would become of this community? Of any community?
Gridlock? Anger? Frustration? Desperation? Violence?
Certainly not ease of passage or connectedness or peace or completion.
The lesson of this road is that if you want to finish the journey you have to accommodate the other and allow them to finish their journey.
This might include patience, and negotiation, and compromise and acknowledgement that the other is important. And the other has to practice the same virtues. But in the end everyone gets to arrive at their holy place, their sacred place, their home place. This being the purpose of the journey.
Much like the journey of our lives. There is a holy and sacred and home place for which we all have set out on our path. May we always find travelers who are as excited to arrive as we.