While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the James Aultucher show, James was interviewing a very interesting guest that told stories of travel, failure and self-discovery. The guest, Kamal Ravikant, was discussing a unique period of his life which inspired him to write the book, Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness, and Following Your Heart. Although the book is fiction, it is closely related to an autobiography because it tells the story of a trip that Kamal took during this special time in his life. The book sounded too interesting not to read.
During a series of unfortunate events in his life; the main character, Amit, casually commits to an unplanned pilgrimage – the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago (aka: The Way of St. James) is an ancient 550-mile Christian pilgrimage route across northern Spain to the city of Santiago De Compostela, where St. James’ body is buried. Today, it is popular with non-Christian and Christian pilgram searching for purpose and deeper understanding of life.
The book is a collection of conversations during the pilgrimage on the Camino. Most of the conversations are with other travelers, but some are internal conversations as the author tries to figure out answers to his own life.
Amit ponders the recent death of his father and his struggle to come to terms with anger with is father. He also deals with the loss of his job, failing career and collapsed relationship with his girlfriend. He thinks and discuses these issues as he simply walks in nature and follows the trail markers each day on the Camino.
As Amit works through these issues, he discusses thoughts on fear, choice, struggles and vulnerability. The pilgrims that he meets each share their individual bits of wisdom that culminate to provide a greater understanding of how Amit can work through his own challenges in life. Below are several selections from the book that can serve as great takeaways.
Thoughts on Fear
At one of the refuges (essentially a hostel established for the pilgrims on the Camino), a traveler told a story about temptation of fear and the Buddha. The following excerpt is from the book.
The night before he achieved enlightenment, the Buddha was attacked by Mara, the God of Death. He threw everything he had—lust, greed, anger, doubt, fear in all its forms—at the man meditating under the tree. No luck.
But even after he lost, he continued showing up throughout Buddha’s life. Each time, the Buddha said, “I see you, Mara.” That’s it. The genius of this is in the simplicity. He named fear for what it was, acknowledged its existence, and then just let it be. That took away Mara’s power, which was an illusion anyway. Eventually, Mara grew bored and lost interest.
The biggest take away from this story is that fear is often defeated when we just acknowledge it’s existence thus removing the majority of the power of fear.
Reflections on choice
Amit had several discussions and thought about choice and consequences. One thought in particular that stood out was the idea of a different outcome to Ernest Hemingway’s life. The following excerpt is from the book.
The stories Hemingway told, the life he lived, all of it ended with a squeeze of a finger on a trigger. What else could he have done if he had put the shotgun down, gone back to bed? What would he have learned in that moment of choosing to live, what other books would have been written?
A simple, interesting thought about what other ways Ernest Hemingway could have contributed to society, if he had not passed by the actions of his own hands.
Thoughts on Struggle
Amit had various reflections on learned lessons through struggle. There is one point in the book, after spending weeks in basic refuge housing with many pilgrims, he mentions desire to have enough money for a nice hotel room. He then immediately realizes that if he had money, he would not have committed to the pilgrimage in the first place. The discovery of the lesson is that the struggle is the blessing. It is a true time of growth.
Thoughts on Vulnerability
Although Amit had many challenges in life, he meets a fellow pilgrim that has grand challenges and experiences making his seem not so big. The pilgrim’s name was Cat and she was quirky as she was profound. She had dealt with many traumatic experiences in her life and shared her thoughts on vulnerability. The following excerpt is from the book.
We must be vulnerable. In life and in love. It’s by being vulnerable that we learn. It’s our vulnerabilities that move us forward, not our strengths. That’s why I so do not like convention. Convention says: be strong. Especially for a man: be strong, don’t show emotion. Poppycock! My greatest strength is my vulnerability
Growth through vulnerability is an interesting concept. It makes sense, but takes a certain level of self-awareness.
The book ends with the main character completing the Camino de Santiago and finding peace through the experiences and people he met along the way. The book appropriately leaves readers with the mystery of what direction the author will take next, but confident that he will make progress towards creating a positive future with whatever he decides.