Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I was born in Angers (Maine-et-Loire) and grew up in Saint-Jean-de-Monts, in Vendée. I am 44 years old, I am married to Letizia, an Italian met in Erasmus in Norway in 2002. We have three children: Nicholas, born in Barcelona, Amélie and Carolina, twins born in Florence in Italy. So we are a very international family!
Why did you take the road to Santiago?
I have always admired the sporting achievement represented by a long-term pilgrimage. However, I was not interested in spirituality until I was faced with the disability of my daughter, Carolina, who had cerebral palsy in 2012. Then I thought to myself that I must one day do the famous Camino to open myself to this pain during this long journey. In June 2022, I sold my start-up and got started.
At the beginning of this pilgrimage, you have a dream which can be likened to a dream…
It is indeed a priest of Santiago de Compostela who will speak to me of “dream”… I did not know this word before. On the third day of my pilgrimage, I dream of Saint Jacques who says to me: “What is the meaning of life, Reynald? Abundance will kill!”
Do you think this warning was addressed to you, to the young people of your generation or to all of humanity?
This warning was first for me, without a doubt: as part of my start-up, we raised millions of euros, in abundance, surfing on the new need for local products delivered to homes during confinement. .
But I sincerely believe that this warning goes further. Just before I had this dream, President Emmanuel Macron was talking about the “end of abundance”. The Epistle of James (which would have been written by Jacques le Juste, and not Jacques le Majeur, editor’s note) talks about the danger of money dominating hearts. This is a message of burning topicality!
Isn’t the pilgrimage, precisely, the time of “happy sobriety”, according to the expression of Pierre Rabhi, which is opposed to the reign of abundance?
It is exactly that. Pay attention to the happiness sought by materialism, money, success, recognition. “You are on the wrong track!” Saint James could say to us! The rhythm of the current world does not invite us to understand this; the pilgrimage, yes.
Doesn’t the motto of the pilgrims, “Ultreia” (always further), take the opposite view of that of our consumer society, “always more”?
Indeed, and I would add the following: “e Suseia“, always higher! Our society wants “always more” without seeing “always higher”. Without the “always higher”, the “always higher” becomes boring and lacks meaning. always more”, it is in his nature; but he also feels the need to give meaning to his life, to go “always higher”. a question (and especially an answer) too personal.
Another theme addressed in your book: the overconsumption of information. You quote the philosopher and sociologist Edgar Morin: “We are as if blinded by an information cloud.” Doesn’t the pilgrimage also provide an opportunity to distance ourselves from this overflow that exceeds our needs?
Exactly. If you watch a continuous news channel from morning to night, the information seems intense to you. If you log out, today’s information can be summed up in one sentence, and it doesn’t have much more intensity than yesterday’s. It all depends on where we place the intensity of our heart: in the search for continuous information or in the search for intense daily human relations?
Isn’t it then that we discover the virtues of silence, which favors the opening of the heart and allows it to listen to what the Path has to say to it?
Silence is essential to discover the signs in our life. They are present in front of us, permanently; it all depends on what we are looking at. If we do not pick up our virtual screens, it will be difficult for us to see these signs. For this, we must force ourselves to be “silent”.
“Abundance will kill”: you also understand it as a critique of inequalities, to the detriment of the common good. Doesn’t the path illustrate the opposite?
There are, of course, inequalities between “rich” and “poor”, and they will widen more and more. But I don’t want to get into this debate. I think the most important thing is that the “rich” understand that their abundance will get them nowhere, and that their salvation is in sharing. But to achieve this, they must feel a “call” in this direction. Taxing, imposing, will be useless. This approach must be above all personal. It’s up to everyone to make their own way, rich and poor alike!
On the way, the donation (free participation in costs), in force in some accommodations, illustrates this sharing well: everyone gives according to their possibilities, and this is how the balance can be achieved!
You also address, in your book, the theme of artificial intelligence, which notably helped you to create the cover of your book.
As an entrepreneur, I don’t want to miss the AI train that has already left. So I’m on the lookout for everything that happens in this area and I actually saw that today we could create a book cover in 15 seconds on the site www.jasper.ai. I tested, and here is the result! It’s both stunning and dangerous. I will fight to use AI to serve the meaning of life and our humanity. Want a scoop? Here is the title of my next book: Hello AI?
Artificial intelligence does not seem to me to go well with the pilgrimage. Doesn’t walking teach us, on the contrary, to anchor ourselves in reality?
Saint Augustine said: “What is more intimate for me than myself, what is more intimate for you than yourself, what is more intimate for us than ourselves, than our intimacy: the fullness for which the heart is made.” The highlights of the pilgrimage are indeed these intimate, real encounters that respond to our hearts. It’s not surprising to see so many couples and friendships formed during this journey, because hearts meet there! Likewise, we might experience this intensity in day-to-day relationships. Why is this not always the case?
In our interconnected and interdependent world, many countries are at war. The path, where pilgrims of all nationalities walk together and towards the same goal, is it not a model of peace between peoples?
Great question and so topical! I am struck to see that a people can follow a single man, rightly or wrongly, and that he can carry out the orders of a Head of State in less than twenty-four hours. We are all vulnerable and followers. I am one of these “followers”, because the mass is more powerful than my “me”. The day when looks will be intimate, individual, and will respond without hesitation to the impulses of our hearts, then humanity will take a completely different direction. I am convinced of it!
When you arrive in Compostela, you tell your dream to a priest. What does it tell you?
He tells me that this “dream” of “abundance will kill” is not an interpretation on my part but a very serious message, found in the Bible. He adds that it is a wonderful “gift” but above all an enormous “responsibility”: that of testifying, for example here with you…
Upon your return, when you tell your son Nicholas (13) about your dream, he comments, “You know, Dad, I don’t know if abundance will kill, but yes, abundance will bore.” What advice do you have for this youth to rediscover the meaning of life?
What a great question! But I will find it difficult to answer it, because young people rarely listen to the “old people” that we have become. We acted the same way at that age… I just hope the virtual world doesn’t become their real world. It’s all in the real world: the mystery, the intensity, the answer to questions. The real “me” is also in the real world. As for the “me” of the virtual world, it seeks abundance, recognition, image; and it is dangerous!
After walking with Saint Jacques to Compostela, another pilgrimage project?
Of course! To walk with Saint Peter towards Rome and with Jesus towards Jerusalem. But if it is always Saint Jacques who accompanies me on these two paths, he is welcome… And why not symbolically beat Mahdi Alioui’s record? (alias Mahdi du Camino, Editor’s note), who traveled 11,000 km between Jerusalem and Compostela? Life will tell us!