Upon leaving Germany for Oviedo the headlines reported another terrorist incident, this time by a 17-year-0ld refugee attacking innocent commuters in a train in southwestern Germany.
So on my first day walking from Oviedo to the small town of Escamplero, I couldn’t but ponder on the recent events. On a global level Evil is showing itself in the cloak of fanatacism, xenophobia, intolerance and nationalism – the isms we thought we had overcome with the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The natural reaction is to hit back at these fanatic perpetrators with military force. But that cannot be the answer. It is the response they are trying to provoke. And the problem has gotten worse since 9/11.
The wisdom of the martial arts tells us to respond to brutal force by making the body soft thus deflecting the blow. I dont have the answer but the opposite of military force would be going into the opposite energy that is confronting us: compassion, universal humanity, mindfulness and trying to understand the compexity of these global problems.
So at the dinner table in the Albergue at Escamplero our small group of pilgrims- two Danish students, a teacher from Germany, a young Italian economist and myself had an intense discussion covering everything from terrorism, religion to climate change. After hours of solitude, the evenings over a glass of wine in the Albergues are particularly enjoyable. With the weather forecasting rain in the afternoon, I took to the road in the early hours of the morning, this ancient path meandering through oak forests, streams, lonely villages and then a steep 1300 Meter climb from the rather mundane city of Grado. In Cornellana the 12th century monastery of San Salvador has been converted to a comfortable Albergue with renovations still continuing. So I’m looking forward to spending the night here before the going gets much tougher in the next few days.
Reino Gevers coach, trainer, author
Nestled in a rock face near the Spanish city of Jaca is the ancient monastery of San Juan de la Pena. It dates back to the ninth century and by the 11th century became the spiritual and intellectual centre of the Kingdom of Aragon. According to legend the Holy Grail was kept here until the 14th century.
There is no final proof but It was believed to be the chalice used by Jesus during the Last Supper and the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea collected the Blood of Jesus on the Cross. Today the original is kept in the Cathedral of Valencia with a copy displayed on a stone altar in the old monastery.
Whether true or not, the monastery San Juan de la Pena is a mysterious and unique place. While on our recent walk on the Camino, I took a day to explore the area on the mountain from which there are spectacular views of the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.
The Monasterio Nuevo, or new monastery, further up the mountain is a much bigger complex. Its exterior has been rebuilt with a modern museum interior giving much insight on how the monks lived according to the Benedictine Order
The monastery had enormous influence not only in the ancient Kingdom of Aragon but throughout Europe of the early Middle Ages. The monks lived disciplined lives, following a daily routine of contemplation, work and study. Silence was highly cherished. The monks took a vow of silence and were only allowed to speak if it was absolutely necessary or when it was a good thought or blessing. It was obviously an atmosphere that was conducive to highly-focused study and inner spiritual work.
The exhibition in the new monastery illustrates a colorful history of rise and decay. The influence and success of this monastery in the early Middle Ages can be attributed to several factors that are good lessons for today’s corporates:
- The monks were absolutely focused, disciplined and dedicated to their task
- At the same time they did not exclude themselves from the outside world, honing the art of networking and relationship-building with the rulers and decision-makers of the time.
- A charismatic abbot, or leader, was crucial in maintaining cohesion, discipline and respect
- Basic material needs were catered for by the Kingdom with at times generous grants and donations
Its a mute point on whether the decay started in the year 1399 when the Aragonese King Martino V took the Holy Grail to his palace in Zaragoza and when the monks asked for it back he tricked them with a replica. There were several fires that destroyed much of the monastery complex in the 17th century. Decay came in line with infighting and power struggles. Grants and privileges from the king were reduced and at times completely stopped. Loss of focus and purpose came in line with vows being broken and poor leadership.
An organisation is only as successful as long as its members are motivated to abide by the internal codes and ethics which always reflects on how it is perceived by those outside. There will always be circumstances that cannot be controlled, such as political change or upheavel. But it is how adaptable and flexible that organisation is to unpredictable changes, that will ultimately determine its survival.
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