Travel Virgin Playlist, Track 6: No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley):
On the morning after I arrived in Spain, I was tempted to stay in bed all day. I had intended to relax, and not do much sight-seeing there. I also hadn't slept very well the first night because of the news of police violence back home in America. So, I was tired by the time I woke up at noon.
The point of a vacation is to rest, right?
But, I also knew that I'd be leaving for Paris the next day. It was my only chance to see the city and--more importantly--the beach. "You've been to a beach before beach, Andre," I said to myself, "How special could it be?" But, from my bedroom, I could also smell the ocean. So, I rallied, put on my linen pants and sandals, and headed out the door.
The beach was just a 20-minute walk through downtown Barcelona, and it was the perfect time to be strolling through downtown. The city was preparing for the La Merce festival (listed as one of the 25 festivals you should see before you die), so there were plenty of street performers, deals on outdoor tapas, and even a street carnival I happened upon. I stopped for tapas and sangria, and sang "No Woman, No Cry" at the top my lungs, as I made my way through downtown and up the boardwalk." At last! I found a churro stand, at the entrance of the carnival, and they only sold them by the quart! Who am I do argue with culture? I bought a quart of churros.
As I walked, I thought about my friends and loved ones in pain back home. I thought of the videos of unarmed black people being gunned down by the police. I thought of the riots in Charlotte. I thought of the frustrating conversations people are still trying to have with their neighbors who are slow to listen. And I thought,
"Today I am fighting injustice with my laughter."
The greatest oppression, I believe, is when we are robbed of our ability to rest and to have pleasure. When we are robbed of our ability to feel and to sing, to laugh and to rest, we become the walking dead. Yes. The situation in America is a frightening mess, but our laughter is proof that the human spirit is not broken.
Our laughter is our ultimate act of resistance, because it suggests that--despite his displays of power--the beast is not as mighty as he feigns to be.
This reminds me of the command to sabbath, to cease from our work, that God gave to the Israelites. What a perfect gift for former slaves--people who had their agency to decide when to work or rest taken away from them. Yes. As co-creators with God, we participate in God's mission by fighting for justice. But the struggle is not our master, it does not decide when we work and when we rest.
We don't work as though we were in a boat that has sprung a leak, thinking if we stop plugging holes, we're going to drown. No.
And so I ate my churros and sang my song in the face of the chaos--a taunt because I know that oblivion awaits it.
Finally, I saw palm trees lining a path to the waters. Yes, I'd been to plenty of beaches on the other side of the pond, and this was no American beach. The water is as blue and green as a jewel. Once again, as has happened in every city on this trip, I was awed.
I have a beach ritual. I like to stand just above where the tide is touching the sand and write "all my sins". I am usually not able to stand and watch the water take those words from the beach. I usually have to leave in faith, knowing that the tide does what it does: "all my sins" will not be there the next day.
This particular time, writing those words had more meaning to me. I did not know I was on a pilgrimage when I left my home in LA, but God has met me in spectacular ways. I came burdened with pain from broken relationships, with guilt from mistakes (some of them made on the way to this beach), with anxiety about my faith and future. So writing these words had a new weight for me.
Before I could even take a picture, the cool ocean waters rushed past my feet and washed half the words away (I had to re-write them to take a picture). I wouldn't just be leaving all of that emotional baggage on the beach, I'd be leaving them on the other side of the world. I took a rock from the shore as my souvenir from Spain, and I wept at how beautiful life is.
It was a good day doing nothing.
You can see pictures I took in Barcelona below. For pictures and videos as they happen, follow me on Instagram: @theandrehenry