Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Pilgrim’s Progress: Christian’s One-Way Route

This wonderful map appeared in an early edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian’s route begins at bottom left, in The City of Destruction, and climbs one-two-three panels, left to right, until it reaches The Celestial City at upper right. 

What strikes me is that Christian’s route is not round-trip. It is one-way and all-or-nothing.

Christian leaves his wife, named Christiana (!), and four sons behind in The City of Destruction, though he believes that the city is doomed. He leaves them because they refuse to follow him, but still— 

For any husband contemplating a pilgrimage, this is probably not a perfect model. And so, before planning my own pilgrimage to Montreal, I ran it by my wife one, two, three times at least, before telling anyone else. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress was first published in 1678 and was an instant best-seller. It may be that Bunyan’s wife tapped him on the shoulder some time later and said, “Uh John, the royalties are nice but what about the wife?” 

Six years later, in 1684, Bunyan solved the problem by publishing Part II, in which Christiana and the boys find their own way to The Celestial City. 

Charles Péguy said that when we get to heaven, God will ask us, “Where are the others?” Sometimes though we just have to set out alone. Sometimes it happens—I have evidence of this in my own life—that when we set out ourselves, single-mindedly, without planning the return trip, others will see us leave and want to follow. 

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