For Whom the Bell Tolls

I’ve had this theme in my mind for some time, without any real clarity about what, actually, I’d like to say about it. So, making things up as I go along, seeing what lands below…

It all started while I was walking last year along the Camino Portuguese. Covering around 330km, as one may imagine, I saw, as I wandered along these traditionally catholic paths, countless numbers of churches, straddled by the typically elaborate cemeteries (‘houses for the dead’ as I came to refer to them) all part and parcel of the landscape. What drew my attention most though were the huge bells cloistered inside the long narrow steeples, designed, it appears, to draw one’s attention upwards towards ‘the almighty’ residing high above us all in heaven.

Church bells have been common since the middle ages, apparently. Oddly, it seems to me, often at the behest of Irish missionaries. So these bells have been around for centuries, nothing new, but still they kept drawing my attention. And it didn’t stop with the ending at Finisterre. No, my fascination has continued to be captured by church bells high up in the skies wherever my footsteps have been landing on my ongoing saga of wandering around the globe.

The line ‘For whom the bell tolls’ was made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s telling of the Spanish civil war. Hemingway begins his tale describing how Robert Jordan, an American who decides to cross the oceans to support the leftist Republicans in their quest. Jordan travels behind enemy lines to work with the Spanish guerrilleros hiding in the mountains. He is assigned the dangerous task of blowing up a Fascist-controlled bridge. All part of a series of events – mistrust, intrigue etc. ensue.

I am a little intrigued that I pick up this subject now. Some sort of synchronicity would seem to be at play. The recent events in Spain symptoms perhaps of suppressed and undealt with scars, memories and emotions. My thoughts now wander to the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita and the danger of suppressed emotions, time bombs waiting to explode, Carl Jung also wrote of these dangers.

My thoughts are also drawn to the UK’s separation from the European Union. While this drive for division may be prompted by selfish motives, I pray that, through open, honest and constructive discussion, historians may look back at these times as being forces for positive change.

Hemingway’s story was inspired by John Donne’s meditation…

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;

every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,

Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were,

as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;

any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Poignant and relevant words for all of us to ponder on today…

If you want to read more about Barbara’s nomadic wanderings and the thoughts it has prompted try                     Inside Out – on the Camino                To the End of the World                           A Lone Sheep                                  Baring All                                   Incredible India

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