Monday, September 1, 2014

Living Far and Wide

Travelling is strange.  Obviously I grew up in the modern world, but it still amazes me that we can travel so far and so fast today.  A day's journey takes us hundreds and hundreds of miles from home.  Spending the summer far from home made me stop to think about how amazing that is.  Because of our ability to travel far and fast, I had the opportunity to become familiar with a patch of earth I had never set foot on before and likely will not set foot on again.  Even more bewildering than my presence hundreds of miles from home was the presence of many international friends who were thousands of miles from their homes!

From Stony Man Mountain, Shenandoah NP
I love to travel and I love meeting people from all over the world.  It allows me to create a culture all my own by piecing together my learning from the diverse places and people I have access to.  But progress always means loss.  What does this incredible ability to travel, to diversify my experience in general, cost me?  What do I lose by gaining the world, so to speak?

One of the (many) books I read this summer was One Man's Meat, a collection of short essays by E. B. White.  Many of the essays focus on the difference between living in the City (New York, of course) and a small Maine farm.  In one, White laments the collapse of his insulated world affected by switching on the radio and hearing the weather report for a town in another state.  Travelling far and fast as we do produces something like the same effect, I think.  We fling ourselves far and wide (whether literally or digitally) and are distracted from engagement in our immediate surroundings.  My heart feels stretched and sometimes torn between the places and people I've loved.

From Miller's Head, Shenandoah NP

All the same, the remedy for this loss cannot be simply to stay home.  It cannot be going back to the way things were before we could travel far and wide, and hear the weather report for someplace on the other side of the world.  Time and humanity only move forward; we have no choice.  The answer is somewhere up ahead, then, in some combination of our learning from the past and innovation of the future.  So travel, experience, learn, grow, create your culture, lose what you must, gain what you can, be present where you are, and above all, love.
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