Friday, April 1, 2011

Fear-laden thoughts on traveling

With the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and economic stagnancy throughout the world, I must confess that I have been growing more fearful, more insular, more quiet, and feeling less adventurous. Tonight, however, I came across an essay in the New York Times by Paul Theroux on the importance of travel. One passage stood out to me:

But the prevailing quality of war is not noise or gunfire. It is suspense, something like boredom; nothing happens for long periods and then everything happens at once in indescribable confusion.

News media today repeats itself so many times through multiple syndicates that it seems we skim over the articles in search of change and ultimately lose track of time. We associate more content with more time. Ten articles on Colonel Qaddafi from papers including the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the San Francisco Chronicle must mean that this event happened during and filled up all those hours that we weren't glued to News Google.
That's not true. Those articles simply compound the "indescribable confusion" within our minds, which depend on the phantasmagoria of pictures to fill the imagination void that we fear filling up with real experience.
Of course, if everyone acted as Theroux had, then those who lack his common sense will inevitably face all sorts of ridiculous perils and sadnesses that seem newsworthy. (Maybe the world will be better off without them.)
The "laborious" kind of traveling, the kind that feels like work, the Joseph Conrad brand - the work that you hate but makes you "find yourself" - that's to travel.

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Alan Gaskill said...

I think all of us have good reason to fear travelling the world at the present time. Before this year of the Rabbit even began, my Singaporean Chinese buddy read the annual Chinese astrological almanac - as he does each year as sort of a family tradition - and upon finishing it promptly called to inform me that this year would be "better for staying at home" due to "hatred, intolerance, upheaval, and natural disasters." I can see him even now, smugly chuckling in his easy chair at home, sandbags piled up behind his windows, watching CNN saying "I told you so."

With regard to travel, isn't it funny that the whole point of is to wake up one day and realize that what we were looking for was with us all along? said...

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MassiveOnes said...

Mmm-hmm, I get it. So what you're saying is that you're indescribably confused about where to go next. I recommend Poland or San Marino. Equally beautiful.

Also, can you write articles on Katy Perry or something interesting like that? Much appreciated and much love (for her).

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Tor Hershman said...

We have nothing to fear except bein' alive.

Jennifer said...

clever post. I'm heading to South Korea and feel some anxiety myself.

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