Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Traveling between point A and point A, all stops in between.


Why do we travel? What compels a restless soul to succumb to their wanderlust?

Certainly traveling is not a behavior unique to humans in the natural world. Many species travel, some farther than others. Some range across continents, (birds), while some never leave the spec of ground upon which they were born.

But humans seem to be the only species that embraces nomadism by choice, without relying on environmental or reproductive pressures to induce forced migration.

I will argue that the reasons an animal will travel to a new geography to escape weather patterns and find food are instincts not far removed from the casual desire to mobilize oneself demonstrated by humans. Both provide nourishment, the first: sustinence, and the other of experiences. Experiences of myriad contrasts and sensations are food for the mind. New experiences are like fresh spring grass on the tundra, feasted on by grazing buffalo, after the snow melts away following a hard winter. As much as humans need stability in life, they need new experiences to break the routine. To stay young. Otherwise, we might get caught in a prolonged ice age.

My case is a peculiar one. I have led such an unstable and chaotic life that newness, chaos, the unknown...these have become my predictability, order, and knowns. Traveling gives me structure. When I am feeling idle, I fade back into the vastness of my mind. After just a short period of routine, I become a disheveled mess, depressed, confused, and anxious. Travel brings me back, grounds me, shakes my by my shoulders and says, "Back to reality!"

I always travel. When I am sitting, my mind wanders. When I am in a city, I walk across that city or hop mass transit. If I am in the country, I hike. I never go truly idle, though I begin to feel a dull pain when I feel like I am approaching anything near stillness. A typical conversation with someone less prone to suffer from my blessed affliciton will go like this:

Them: "Gabriel, why don't you just learn how to meditate?"

Me: "Because I'd rather go for a swim in the ocean or hike through the woods barefoot."

My argument is that primitives had no need for meditation because their daily lives were spent in the "zone". There's a Chinese adage that goes, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." Basically, as I read it, there is no such thing as enlightenment. We are almost there already, but apparently we need to foist heavy buckets of water onto our backs to cement the deal.

The grass is not so much just greener, but it's different, and different is new and green grass is newer than not so green grass. The grass is greener, it's just that it is devoured soon upon arrival by those that feel hunger, thus it is imminent that the grass will again be greener somewhere else. Time for more spring, more experiences, an endless summer. The waves on this beach have died down dude. Let's go to the next one for some killer waves. Bon voyage.

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