CACABELOS – Today I had a beautiful “optional” walk. Instead of taking the route next to the highway, I chose the alternate route, to go up and down a 1500ft (450m) mountain to get to the next town. This was completely optional, and after the mountain had “completed” me (as they say here when a store is closed), I was still 8 miles (13km) uphill to my intended destination. It was after 4pm, and while I’ve walked until 8.30pm before, I wasn’t feeling it today. I was completed.
All day long I’ve been thinking about this Deming quote, trying to recall it, and still not feeling like I have it right. If my brother Rod was around, it would roll right off his tongue. It goes something like this:
“A system will output exactly what it was designed to output.” – W. Edward Deming.
I’ve been thinking of that both in terms of me regularly not making my goal for a day on this Camino, and of my “project”.
Each morning I usually set a goal for the day, but not a particularly ambitious goal (unlike my friend Peter who is now 60miles (100km) ahead of me. Often my walk is complete before that goal is reached either because I’m too tired to continue, or I fell in with some people I’d like to spend more time with. Since Peter kept going, it’s been the former. Deming would say: The system (me) outputs (walks) exactly what it was designed to. I thought by day 26 of the Camino I’d be in much better shape than I appear to be.
In terms of the Doom Loop I wrote about yesterday, my Project’s system outputs exactly what it was designed to output too. Deming stressed that if one is not happy with the output of a system, one needs to change the system, not blame fate, inputs, circumstances, workload, or the people running it. The system is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
In terms of My Project, missing the handoff between the stages of Relief and Rehabilitation, is exactly how the system was designed to operate: there is no graduation, no handoff to the next stage, only a repeat loop. The institution has no interest in rehabilitation, for that would require change, and this system works, even if its players are getting a little crispy at the edges.
I have enjoyed the mountain wildflowers today. The ones by the side of the road are completed, as the temperatures are now too hot in the afternoons.
“The Camino starts where you begin it,” I was told a few days after I started, meaning there is no right place to start, only to begin walking. Today I heard “Santiago is with you where ever you go.” It was said to a very sick pilgrim who should not continue toward Santiago (he has a septic infection). I think the nurse was telling him St. James (Santiago) would be with him, but I’m sure what he heard was that his goal, the city of Santiago (the final destination of Camino), was already within him. I wondered if she knew this was like something Jesus once said: “The kingdom of God is already among you.”
I was thinking about him today as I walked by “The Gate of Forgiveness,” a side entryway to the Church of St. James (Iglesia de Santiago) in Villafranca where in earlier times, sick pilgrims who were “completed” could ask for an indulgence by walking through it. This morning it was locked and in the town we learned the next time it would open was 2021, the next Holy Year. No indulgences for me.
Today is June 10, and in 12 days I fly out for Ghana. I miss Suzanne dearly and I am confident even with my often truncated goals I should be able to return to her after completing my Camino, while not be completed by it.