What is the reason?

I have been reading a book (I know,big surprise), a father-son memoir by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez titled, Along the Way.

I picked it up because of their movie, The Way, the story of a father walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain to connect with his deceased son. They wrote the book a couple of years after making the movie, and I read it because I wanted to go deeper

This sort of thing happens to me a lot. I’ll see a movie, hear an interview, or listen to a podcast, and then go hunting for more information. I don’t think it’s more detail or more history that I want, just more insight and understanding. If something causes my heart to vibrate or my brain to ruminate, I naturally want to go deeper. Who doesn’t?

So, back to the movie. After their visit to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the traditional end of the Camino, the story follows our pilgrims into an office next door. They are entitled to receive a diploma certifying they have completed the 500-mile hike, joining other pilgrims who’ve been making this journey for more than 1,000 years. One of the requirements is to answer a question for the official record: “What is your reason for walking the Camino?”

This, by the way, is not the same as asking, “What is your quest?” That’s a destination question. “What is your reason?” is a motivation question.

In the movie, Tom, played by Martin Sheen, stammered a bit before saying something like, “I needed to travel more.” He was a bit embarrassed that his answer was so trivial and that he couldn’t articulate his real reasons. Sheen later wrote that he was personally confronted with the same question once he got back home to Malibu, after the movie was finished. “What is your reason …?”

I think it was the most important question of the entire memoir. Maybe THE QUESTION of all memoirs. Of all writing.

Well, as it turns out, I cannot read a memoir without putting myself into every story. Maybe that’s too self-serving to think about myself while reading someone else’s book, but isn’t that the point of all memoir writing? An author tells his personal stories hoping the reader will connect with their own stories, and so author and reader learn together?

That’s certainly why I write.

When I read the question in Along the Way, I knew that for me it was about life and loving and God, my journey with Cyndi, my changing relationship with my dad and my mom, my years as a writer and a teacher, my decades as an engineer, my role as father and father-in-law and grandfather, and even my current stint as Uncle Hub. Those are all parts of my own personal pilgrimage, my Camino.

And my immediate answer to the question, without thinking or blinking, an answer that surprised me in its simplicity and clarity, yet made complete sense as the words rolled through my brain, was this: Further up and further in. It’s a phrase from The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis’s final book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

I don’t know how Lewis intended the phrase to be interpreted, but I think of further up in regards to knowledge and wisdom, and further in in regards to relationships. I want to go further up - learn more, know more, experience more, live more, and study more. I want to go further in - love more, feel more, and understand more. I want more of both. That’s why I’m walking.

But that can’t be the end of it. As Erwin McManus wrote, “Your life can never be simply about you.”

So, my real reason? To bring a crowd as we go further up and further in together. To pull back the curtain and show a bigger, wider, deeper, and longer view of God’s world. To enjoy the companionship of fellow travelers.

As the movie tagline says, “Life is too big to walk it alone.” It make me happy to know many of you are walking alongside.

QUESTION: What is your reason? What is your Camino?


 “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32 

To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: berry@stonefoot.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org