Pilgrimage: facing the challenges of extensive trails, in an encounter with nature, with oneself and with spirituality, is what many adventurers seek when traveling the Caminhos da Fé, in Brazil, and the well-known Caminhos de Santiago, towards the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. These are reflections on life and accounts of these journeys that give life to the fourth book by David Maykell, from Alagoas. In “As long as I’m a fish, I don’t laugh – Reflections interspersed through the Paths of Faith and Santiago de Compostela”, the author shares thoughts, reflections, anxieties, decisions and changes with the reader. Observing social media, David realized the potential of sharing stories and daydreams, putting aside barriers and revealing more about himself to anyone who wanted to connect and share about life.
The decision to walk the Paths was accompanied by reflections on existence. After a divorce and the sale of his apartment, all his belongings started to fit into a small backpack. So, without planning and with a sedentary lifestyle, he headed towards the National Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora Aparecida. After returning, he found himself alone in a hotel in Maceió and, being on leave from work, purchased a ticket to Portugal on the same day and began a new journey. David traveled more than 1,500 kilometers in search of self-knowledge, stitching together words from his daily experiences, reflections and experiences.
Life presents each of us with moments of joy and pain, memorable experiences and unique feelings. In “As long as I’m a fish, I don’t laugh”, the author transforms the book into a space for varied reflections, illustrated by photographs of everyday life, self-portraits, of the places he has been and of nature. It is a record of the construction of a new David, offering the reader thoughts on the human experience.
Born in Arapiraca, Alagoas, David Maykell currently resides in Maceió. A federal public servant, he is an Environmental Analyst at the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). With a degree in Biological Sciences and a postgraduate degree in Recovery of Degraded Areas, he discovered in words a way to express his reflections on life and, on social media, a channel to show himself genuinely, without masks or reservations. In search of freedom and self-knowledge, he traveled the Paths of Faith and Santiago, condensing his experiences in the book “As long as I’m a fish, I don’t laugh”. In addition to this work, he also published the books “Planeta Intocável”, “Para Semper Filho” and “Suicida em Série”.
His book, “As long as I’m a fish, I don’t laugh”, explores his reflections during pilgrimages along the Caminhos da Fé and Santiago de Compostela. How have these experiences shaped your reflections and changed your perspective on life?
Tackling a long walk perhaps requires a little more courage. For me, in the adverse personal conditions I found myself in, I say that it requires a certain dose of desperation. It was around seventy days of walking, allowing me to have a lot of time alone and without the distractions that exist at home and in cities. In those circumstances it was nature, the bucolic universe of farms and small villages and a huge SELF to deal with. In this way, experiences, from the simplest to the most profound, clashed with my pre-existing concepts and, thus, much of what I thought and part of what I wrote intensively shaped my reflections and changed my life.
When mentioning the process of sharing reflections online, how did you notice the evolution of these ideas as they were debated and interacted with by the public on social media?
By sharing daily experiences, whether good or bad, I noticed a positive movement towards encouraging persistence in the journey and, in a more pronounced way, in detaching myself from my writing. Yes, as I shared the events and my truths in the most reliable way on social media, there was a public or private response, which expressed an unexpected identification with similar cases and reactions that distant followers report and admit to going through. Naturally, I expanded my gaze to the physical details of paths, thoughts and sporadic conversations with people with whom I had some type of interaction, considering it from the perspective of going to social media, as there was no intention of publishing a book yet.
The decision to embark on pilgrimages came after a period of significant changes in his life, such as separation and the sale of assets. How has this lifestyle change impacted your personal journey and reflections?
After twenty years of work and twenty-three years of relationship, I looked back and didn’t like what was left behind. An amicable separation came. I was already on sick leave from work and decided to look back at myself. They say it is – and I must warn you that it was for me – one of the greatest pains I have ever known. As with everything, the beginning is more difficult, and with each step my reflections became more confusing. I arrived at the inn and had to hold the momentum until the ideas were less incomprehensible. As time and kilometers passed, the confusion lessened, and ideas settled very easily, even on the park bench or sitting on the curb. Then, for a while, everything felt lighter.
You mention that the book is a record of the making of a “new David.” How did these pilgrimages contribute to your personal journey and what most marked you in this search for yourself?
It’s been a year since walking was my life and, at that time, it had already changed my being a lot. It was impossible not to value every little thing, to appreciate nature from a different perspective and, above all, to trust in human beings. I left Alagoas without believing in true kindness and genuine generosity until I started walking the Path of Faith and came across them on a large scale and very frequently, which left a deep impression on me. On the Camino de Santiago, I didn’t notice the good reception, but I experienced the height of loneliness, as I had no conversations with either waiters or receptionists at the inns. I returned lacking in people and much more open until the dynamism of life shook again and I was no longer the one who had just arrived from the journey.
When sharing varied reflections illustrated by photos of everyday scenes and nature, how did you balance the expression of these thoughts with the visual representation in the book?
I started correlating images/photographs with texts of the highest range of depths and truths that I could reach before the paths. There, on the paths, I continued my way of doing things. Everything in an entirely intuitive way. I see a spider web and I take a photo because I found it interesting and not to become text. When I least expect it, a text is ready in a few minutes and the image may or may not fit into the narrated context. It’s not a concern of mine.
Did the experiences you had on pilgrimages directly influence the way you see life and personal relationships? if so, in what way?
A man stops a car and asks you to pray for him; a pharmacist and a masseuse offer to treat you without charging anything in return. It is impossible to go through experiences and not be deeply influenced by them. Unfortunately, these memories are more vivid in thoughts than in attitudes themselves. I can say that I gained another perspective on human suffering, however it was a way of seeing the world that was more restricted to the universe of pilgrimage.
The book highlights the search for understanding the human experience. What are the main themes or concepts that you hope readers absorb when reading “As Long as I’m a Fish, I Don’t Laugh”?
It is interesting how the search for understanding the human experience follows, in my opinion, the guidelines of the most varied religions and/or the involvement with spirituality, which, in turn, moves towards the exaltation of perfection and holiness. I – along the way and in the book – arrived at the opposite understanding, that of humanization in the best sense of the word. It is not possible to approach topics such as environmental conflicts from a religious perspective or from the perspective of those who argue that you should not touch natural resources, but want them in your home. Another delicate subject is exposure and hypocrisy on social media, where whenever I could I took a stand and gave examples of my personal life and relationships, also telling bad facts.
You mentioned that life presents moments of joy, suffering and unique experiences. What was the main learning you highlight from these experiences recorded in the book?
On a journey of eight hundred and so kilometers, you will feel everything that is possible for you. I myself started when packing my backpack and it wasn’t fear, it was the fear of having an accident, of being robbed, of facing venomous bites, of pain, injuries, calluses, etc. Then you overcome the first stretch and, when you arrive, you are flooded with well-being, you shower with indescribable pleasure and carry on with your dinner life as if you hadn’t just walked forty kilometers. And what remains of learning is the old cliché of taking the first step, to make possible what many think is impossible. No matter how many kilometers it is, the next step has always been my destiny.
How do you hope the experience described in the book inspires or impacts readers seeking a deeper understanding of their own personal and spiritual journey?
That real human beings are recognized, with physical, interpersonal and spiritual demands. Aware that we must improve, as far as possible, in all areas all the time, but that oscillation is also part of the process.
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