We each walk through this world and we form certain opinions about others based on their appearance, their trappings.
That person has a Rolex, they must be rich.
That person has sneaky eyes, they must be untrustworthy.
That person lives in a caravan park, they must be destitute.
These are judgements we have made based on very superficial factors.
The person with the Rolex might be bankrupt.
The person with sneaky eyes might have cataracts.
The person who lives in a caravan park might have millions in the bank.
The Camino is one of the few places I know where it’s very hard to make those kind of judgements, because there’s often very little to make judgements on, other than attitude and behaviour.
Most pilgrims don’t take expensive jewellery or watches on the Camino. Most pilgrims wear the same kind of hiking clothing. You can’t make judgements on them based on what car they drive, or what house they live in.
Often you meet a pilgrim and you have no clue if they’re a judge or a janitor.
The Camino, in that sense, induces a base level of status. Very few come to the Camino with their status on display. And if they do, often the Camino strips them of that status in very humbling ways.
That’s not to say pilgrims don’t immediately judge. They judge the “trueness” of the pilgrim, often by asking the seemingly innocent question: Where did you start?
That’s far from an innocent question.
If the pilgrim being asked that question states Pamplona, or Burgos, then the pilgrim asking the question, having walked from Le Puy or Seville, can puff themselves up a bit and think they are a “truer” pilgrim, whatever that means.
Of course, like any form of judgement, it’s based on ego, a need to feel superior, which in turn stems from lack of self worth, and ultimately fear.
Largely, and I say largely, the Camino is a leveller. People who, in their lives back home, might be famous, might be rich, might wield enormous power over others, sit down at communal tables, eat €10 pilgrims meals, and you’d never know.
And in the end, what does it matter? It’s who we truly are that matters, not what resources we might have accumulated elsewhere.
The Camino helps us find out who we really are…