Peo­ple are read­ing the ency­clo­pe­dia, cook­ing every recipe in Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing, walk­ing the Pacif­ic Crest Trail. They are pho­tograph­ing every alley in New York, walk­ing every street in New York, draw­ing every build­ing in New York, draw­ing every per­son in New York. I wasn’t so ambi­tious; I only want­ed to pho­to­graph every neigh­bor­hood in St. Louis.

In doing so, these peo­ple are of two minds; they at once are flag­pole sit­ters and pil­lar-saints. They might have bal­anced an egg on a spoon for a week, except that they also have some desire to know. They hope that by mem­o­riz­ing their own par­tic­u­lar Koran, they will gain a cos­mic under­stand­ing of the cho­sen top­ic, and that this will (nat­u­ral­ly enough) be mir­rored in a cos­mic under­stand­ing of them­selves. They will then kind­ly descend from the lone­ly height to preach to the rest of us. 

Con­sid­er­ing the results, it might be clos­er any many cas­es to say that these peo­ple have, as in the game ver­nac­u­lar, lev­eled up; through this par­tic­u­lar habit of cook­ing, walk­ing, pic­tur­ing, acquired by force, they have come to live in the same world with a dif­fer­ent set of abil­i­ties. They are not made a dif­fer­ent per­son by their cho­sen endeav­or, so much as they have added a set of advan­tages, where an added author­i­ty is maybe mir­rored by an added peace of mind. 

It must be said, final­ly, that they come to prof­it in the world; the res­i­den­cy, the book to sell, nev­er being far off. This is not so hard because their goals, their frame of ref­er­ence, has remained the same. 

This, then, is the form of the pil­grim­age – that an uproot­ing, a devi­at­ing, a bloody-mind­ed­ness, should only come to point the way back home. But rather than take a pil­grim­age agreed upon by all on a well-worn Way of St. James, the com­pletist makes as though to see any con­cept, set, text, or group in terms of a pil­grim­age. Is it func­tion­al­ly the same to pil­gri­ma­tize such things? 

(June 2016)