It’s Camino Eve, the night before I start walking to Santiago de Compostela for a third time, and I’ve spent the day exploring the sunny streets and broad boulevards of A Coruña, here on the northwest coast of Spain.
From here, I’ll catch a bus to Ferrol tomorrow morning and begin the Camino Inglés, the shortest of all the pilgrimage routes to Santiago, a trifling 117km.
It’s three years since I walked the Português route to Santiago from Porto, and close to four since the somewhat life-changing events of my first long walk, the Camino Francés.
Identity, character and purpose were rebuilt and redefined on that journey, and lessons were learned about tolerance, empathy and compassion too.
The value of a good sit down in the sun was appreciated too.
Since 2019, however, the rest of the world has carried on being rather rubbish at learning any of these things.
In fact, it’s possible to conclude that this whole “humanity” thing is a failing concept, as we keep finding new ways to understand each other even less than before.
Current events, and those of the last decade, have demonstrated our ability to believe what we want, rather than what is true.
The foundation myths of our societies are deeply ingrained into our consciousness, making it difficult to accept or appreciate alternative perspectives.
Here in A Coruña, there’s a perfect example of this inbuilt division.
If you were a child born here, you would learn the heroic story of María Pita, who led the resistance to the invading English Armada under the command of Francis Drake in 1589.
But if you were a child born in Plymouth, you would learn the heroic story of Francis Drake, who led the resistance to the invading Spanish Armada in 1588, after finishing a game of bowls.
Neither culture ever learns the other side of the story, it seems. And that’s where it all goes a bit wrong.
A few kilometres away from Praza de María Pita, the lovely square dedicated to the city’s saviour, stands Torré de Hercules.
This impressive edifice is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use to this day, standing proudly on the Atlantic seafront against all the elements.
We can shine a light on the world around us, it seems.
But we’re still in the dark when it comes to understanding each other’s perspectives.