El Camino de Santiago – a Zeitgeist phenomenon
Since the beginning of the 21st century the popularity of the Camino de Santiago has spread well beyond the borders of Spain and Europe, and in the last 20 years the annual number of pilgrims has increased tenfold. From 1970 to 2006 there have been more than one million pilgrims. These remarkable facts make one wonder about what is happening. Pilgrims decide to walk the Camino for many different reasons but there may be something about the times we live in that accounts for the great increase in the number of pilgrims in recent years.
Everything needs to be seen for what it is, not through the lens created by the presuppositions of the industrial mentality. We are in transition, we see much of the new world, but our habits of thought and our innate presuppositions confine many of our organisations and institutions, and even our lives, to the pipelines that made the world work in the past two hundred years. We are in conflict. We know that the prerogatives of the central order don’t work any more. We still use the measures of success and the standards of accountability that come from the old order but they have lost their meaning. And so there is great confusion and, in the absence of a sense of purpose and a framework for accountability, many of our most trusted organisations and institutions put their own self-interest above that of society.
In the industrial world we allowed organisations, government, business, civic bodies to marshal community resources, to transform them in ways we believed would benefit society, then deliver them through pipelines to people. We built systems to make the delivery more effective and efficient, we surrendered something of ourselves to allow a greater benefit to ensue. We allowed ourselves to be streamed to meet the needs of industry. We allowed our world to be reshaped in countless ways, and we enjoyed the benefits of the improvements in communication, transportation, commerce, and our standard of living. Parallel to these events, we have lost something. In the past it was enough to say that something well-delivered was well-done. Now we wonder why resources should be used to feed pipelines instead of to enable individuals, organisations, communities, regions, nations to achieve goals that will lead to greater self-reliance, independence, entrepreneurship, and connectedness to each other and the world.
Although it is changing in countless ways, pipelines dominate our experience. We go to school to be filled with knowledge ,we go to the supermarket to receive our goods, we watch the television to receive our entertainment, we allow others to interact with the world for us, to digest experience and resources and provide us with an outlook on life and the means of sustenance. The pipelines not only govern and distribute resources, they govern our experience. The scope and range of our decisions is limited by the frameworks of the industrial world.
We are in the midst of change. We can no longer trust the pipelines to make decisions for us. The world is too complex. Diversity is far too apparent. Communication, travel and science etc. have illuminated the diversity and intelligence of even the smallest of human and natural environments. The tools and techniques of the industrial world illuminate individualities but do not connect them. However, emerging networks offer a new way sharing experience and knowledge. Networks connect individuals, communities, organisations, businesses and societies in ways that generate new knowledge and new answers to existing and emerging problems. The world can work in a different way, but we are not there yet.
The pipeline is a linear way of organising the world. The main focus is what goes in at one end and what comes out at the other. People either like the product or they don’t. It either fits their needs or not. They either qualify for the program or not. They either fit into the industrial society or they don’t.
The Camino is more like a continuum than a pipeline. In a continuum, there are stages of interaction and changes that occur as people or societies move along the continuum. In a continuum the organising principle for resources is not the needs of people, but their purpose and their goals. Unlike a pipeline, a continuum is open to the world. As people move along a continuum, they interact with the world in diverse ways, they are subject to the influences of their changing environment, they adapt and change, they may see different routes to the achievement of their purpose, and they may use a wide variety of resources to sustain their growth and development. The continuum is not about fitting in, it’s about gathering resources to achieve goals that relate to vision. It’s about becoming more self-reliant, independent, entrepreneurial, innovative and, ultimately, more connected to others through the identification of common goals. The continuum is not about moving a product down the line, it’s about interaction,change, growing awareness and consciousness.