Levi-Strauss: Don’t let a yearning for the past get in the way of experiencing the present
“I wished I had lived in the days of real journeys, when it was still possible to see the full splendor of a spectacle that had not yet been blighted, polluted and spoiled. When was the best time to see India? At what time would the study of Brazilian savages have afforded the purest satisfaction, and revealed them in their least adulterated state?
I have only two possibilities: either I can be like some traveler of the olden days, who was faced with a stupendous spectacle, almost all of which eluded him, or worse still, filled him with scorn and disgust; or I can be a modern traveler, chasing after vestiges of a vanished reality. I lose on both counts, and more seriously than may at first appear, for, while I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment, since I have not reached the stage of development at which I would be capable of perceiving it.
A few hundred years hence, in this same place, another traveler, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see. I am subject to a double infirmity: all that I perceive offends me, and I constantly reproach myself for not seeing as much as I should.”
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
Alain de Botton on traveling
“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.
At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves - that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. (…)
Instead of bringing back 1600 plants, we might return from our journeys with a collection of small unfêted but life-enhancing thoughts.”
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
“For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”
“We are men and our lot in life is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”
“You must always keep in mind that a path is only a path. Each path is only one of a million paths. If you feel that you must now follow it, you need not stay with it under any circumstances. Any path is only a path. There is no affront to yourself or others in dropping a path if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on a path or to leave it must be free of fear and ambition. I caution you: look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone this one question. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same. They lead nowhere. They are paths going through the brush or into the brush or under the brush of the Universe. The only question is: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then it is a good path. If it doesn’t, then it is of no use. (…)
For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length—and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”
“We hold fast to a social identity that we believe lends us a name and a face, but equally fast we move from one definition of a society to another, alternating again and again that presumed identity. Like characters in a story that keeps changing, we find ourselves playing roles that others appear to have invented for us, in plots whose roots and consequences escape us… Even when declaring allegiance to one place, we seem to be always moving away from it, toward a nostalgic image of what we believe that place once was or might one day be… and yet, partly because of our nomad nature and partly due to fluctuations of history, our geography is less grounded in a physical than in a phantom landscape. Home is always an imaginary place.”
Paulo Freire on changing places to live
“I was born in Portugal, and have since lived in France, the UK, the United States and now in Germany (I am learning my fifth language now, German).
I entirely agree with the points made here about traveling abroad being a great adventure. Traveling has been so engaging for me that I have started experiencing time in a different way than folks back home. To some of them 1999 was not too long ago. But for me 1999 was a very, very long time ago, mainly if I remember the places where I have been and lived, and all the experiences I went through since then. I think that by breaking with the daily routines of one place, by making myself adapt to new countries and places I have greatly increased the number of CPU cycles my brain had to go through, and therefore my subjective life-span. Many of the people that say 1999 was yesterday live in the same places, have the same jobs and know the same people they knew 10 years ago. Nothing could be further from the truth for me.
I agree very much with the idea of Nostalgia as well. I will never be able to visit the Portugal I left behind because that country simply does not exist anymore. But, alas, even if I had stayed there, I would still probably miss many things of that country that no longer exist. Like my grandparents, like the joys of my childhood. That is a country that everyone loses, whether they leave or stay at home.”