Have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage? If so, where and why?
Pilgrimage is an important part of my faith. In Islam, traveling to the venerated city of Mecca (known as Hajj) is a sacred journey that provides those blessed with the chance to perform Hajj rites expiation of their sins and closeness to the creator.
Some people save for their entire lives to make the holy trip. Others go on Hajj to die. It is an arduous trek. Every pilgrim has their Hajj stories, telling of illnesses, injuries, and challenges to finishing everything without blowing their cool. Despite the physical obstacles, many Muslims through the world strive to go on Hajj. The emotional and spiritual benefits far outweigh any difficulties.
I associate the notion of going on pilgrimage with Hajj, a pillar of my faith, through which I may connect with my Lord in an act of devotion that will reinforce my spiritual journey, expanding the meaning of life and my purpose in the world, including as a writer. Therefore, I do not personally see the necessity for me to take part in a literary pilgrimage to connect spiritually or emotionally with a dead writer, no matter how talented or pivotal their work has been.
I appreciate the need for people to find meaning. I am not disparaging anyone who decides to go on a literary pilgrimage. Visiting the homes and haunts of one’s favorite writers or retracing the routes of characters from a beloved text can energize and motivate a writer.
Living in New York affords me the chance to visit places frequented by some of the country’s most notable authors and my favorites. A quick drive across the island and I am at the birthplace of poet Walt Whitman. I can hop a train to Harlem and walk in the paths of Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes and civil rights writer James Baldwin. I can traverse the places visited by novelist Toni Morrison, whose work impacted my life the most. However, the exploration of literary spaces remains more historical than spiritual for me. I consider them artifacts of writing, as part of the broader human experience.
My faith defines and drives my purpose when I write. Although I enjoy visiting places with literary attachments, their impact on me is similar to any historic site. Conversely, I spent years saving and yearning to go on Hajj. That pilgrimage is one I long for down to the fiber of my being.