Let's Go For A Walk

Author: Timothy Deenihan

     My job here is not an easy one.

     That’s not a woe-is-me comment. I’m not looking for sympathy. I feel remarkably fortunate and honored to have the assignment I do on this excursion, this walk, this pilgrimage. But, really, it’s not easy.

     It’s my job to be honest.

     Try being really honest – truly open with what’s going on in your heart and mind – whilst at the same time hoping not to offend anyone. I mean, the sky is honestly blue, but beyond that we’re likely to get into some trouble.

     But that’s my job, here.

     Some of it’s easy. Really easy. Telling you about the people that I’m walking with, Bill Borders and Haley and so many more to come, and making them sound like good people, the sort of people you’d like to open a beer with or prop your feet up by a fire in the back yard or just laugh about how many miles you’ve driven for your kids’ soccer practice this week – that’s easy. Because they are those people.

     And it’s easy to talk about Notre Dame and what it means to me. To us. Its impact on the students who have studied there, the people who simply visit out of love for its traditions, its mission to be, as Father Sorin himself intended, “a powerful means for good,” and how we all strive to help it to accomplish that mission. Trust me, I can sing Notre Dame’s praises for weeks on end and not get tired of it.

     But in order for either of those roles of mine – biographer and (frankly) cheerleader – to have any real meaning, to be anything more than the anonymous profiles and pitches you might find anywhere, you need to know who’s speaking to you.

     I need to be honest with you. And I’ve never met you. And that makes this a little harrowing.

     You will likely at some point find yourself disagreeing with me. Trust me: you’re in good company. I disagree with most people.

     But don’t walk away. Walk with me. Explain to me why I’m wrong. This is one of the things I am most looking forward to on this Trail: spending long days walking in the company of people who have a significantly different outlook or opinion than mine. It’s how I learn.

     So while I would like to call myself politically independent, it’s certainly a more European definition of independent than an American one.

     And as for faith, I believe. But I can’t really say what I believe and I’m frankly suspicious of anyone who can. How’s that for conflicted?

     Here’s a little insight into what it’s like being me:

     I struggle with words and their meanings. And by “struggle” I mean struggle. I mean: when I find myself, for whatever reason, starting the Lord’s Prayer, I get exactly as far as “Our Father...” when a little asterisk and footnote pop up inside my head and I immediately start an internal conversation on gender assignation to an entity which is by definition beyond definition, and how dare we assign any characteristics – male, female, or otherwise – to That Whose Awesomeness is surely beyond any human ability to define at all?


     While I’m stuck in this loop, everyone around moves on to “...who art in Heaven...” and it starts all over again as I get annoyed with the image of a city in the clouds and a bunch of toga-wearing, winged CrossFitters looking meaningfully at each other as they were taught to do by all the Renaissance masters.

     Pause for a moment, if you will, in sympathy for my wife.

     I love complexity. I suspect simplicity. I doubt easy answers. And I think people are utterly fascinating.

     I’ll get more into my thoughts on faith later. I’ll share my questions and doubts and the handful of insignificant things I think I do understand. Maybe some of it will make sense to you. Maybe they’re the same things you struggle with. Maybe you’ll be offended, but I hope not. I hope you’ll stick around and become part of the journey.

     I’ll complain a bit. I’ll complain about tired legs and sore feet and political gridlock and why it is that no one else walks anywhere anymore and how our dependence of being comfortable – both physically and philosophically – is at the very heart of everything that’s gone wrong.

     I’ll probably suggest that instead of getting people who disagree to sit down over a beer at a bar they’ve just built or offering riot police a cola, that maybe we’d be better off if we just took some really long walks in the company of people we’ve never met before.

     And asked some questions.

     And listened to what they had to say.

     If I’m overly honest with you in the months to come, it’s not to offend or to shock or to sound like I think I have all the answers. I really don’t. It’s just to let you know where I’m coming from.

     So that we can find a place to meet.

     And go for a walk.    

About The ND Trail Blogger

Tim Deenihan ('92) is a writer, an actor, an impatient philosopher, and the only man in a house of four women. If you're ever in Seattle, look him up - he makes a wicked margarita and a mean manhattan. If you can't get to Seattle, you can find him on twitter as @tinangel. Walk with Tim in August. Join Us.