Walking to Mérida – Chapter 39

We leave Torremejia on our way to Méreda, about ten miles.

The Camino is beside a highway.

I read chapter 39 of the Tao te Ching:

“In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creatures flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.”

The Camino passes onto the roadway — walking becomes unpleasant.

“When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.”

Eventually, we reach the countryside.

“The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.”

We catch our first glimpse of Mérida. Karen has been coached but perhaps my directing skill needs improvement. After an hour or so we arrive at the Puente Romano, the ancient Roman Bridge over the Rio Guadiana.

The Romans built this bridge in about 100 AD. It is the world’s longest surviving ancient bridge still in use (790 meters). It has 60 spans — but 3 are buried.

Karen takes a photo of a group of hiking pilgrims – four are French, one is Belgian, one unknown.

They take our picture.

We cross the bridge.

“His constant practice is humility.
He doesn’t glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as stone.”

We visit the Alcazaba — a Muslim fort, built in 834 AD, on the Mérida side of the bridge. The Muslims conquered the city at the beginning of the 8th century and named it Mérida. They built a fort, the Alcazaba, in 834 AD, after the local people revolted.

Fort wall design – they built up a Roman wall.

Fort interior – housed 2000 troops.

Passage into tower/cistern; in 1230, Alfonzo IX, Christian King of León, captured the city and houses were built within the fort.

Cistern

View of bridge from fort

Archeological Excavations

Cannon balls used by Napoleon’s forces in 1811. The French captured this fort which was occupied by the British who were supporting Spain.

Cannon design — the use of explosives and cannon made medieval defensive positions, such as forts and castles, obsolete. This is a metaphor for our thinking about the inner life — things that people said in the past may not be true for modern people. You must find your own Way.

View of bridge and fort walls from ramparts

Lao tsu’s original text is obscure. Mitchell provides a poetic translation that fits the thinking of modern meditators. The actual words are not important. What is important is your capacity to bring yourself into harmony with reality through coming into harmony with yourself. Practice daily. Just as the Camino is the “way” to Santiago, inner stillness is the Way to understanding.

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