Friday, March 16, 2012

Journeys


One year ago yesterday I boarded a plane for London for the start of a month-long journey to, as Proust put it, recherche du temps perdu, to walk some of the same streets and visit some of the same places I'd first seen over 55 years before as a young sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga. And while I appreciated the first-time adventure while I was experiencing it, it was set inside a framework of day-to-day life as a sailor...which is often unglamorous in the extreme. It was only after I had had my wondrous adventures that I was able to fully appreciate them, when the memories began to sparkle like bits of pure gold in a miner's sieve. On the second visit, every day, all day, was devoted totally to experiencing every moment. Of course the experience was made bittersweet by the fact that I was no longer 21.

Each of us is unique yet, because we live our entire lives inside ourselves, whatever we experience is, on some level, accepted as "the norm" for us. And yet there is a tendency to look at the experiences of others as being more romantic, more exciting than our own. You have done/seen/experienced/felt things I never have, as conversely have I. Yet there is something apparently built into the human psyche that makes our own experiences somehow lesser than other people's.

We watch movies wherein handsome people flit from romantic locale to romantic locale, apparently never at a loss for either the time or money to do both. Our social media is filled with posts from people either preparing to head off to London or Bali or Singapore, or notes from people who are there, or tales and photos of their adventures when they return. I read them and am overcome with envy. That I, too, did exactly the same thing last year and will be doing so again this year really doesn't count.

We see a photo of a picture-perfect little chalet perched on the steep slope a mountainside with a spectacular view of lakes and valleys spread out below, and we ache to live there, totally overlooking the fact that were we in fact living there, we would not/could not also be in the infinite number of other picturesque spots we ache to be. We can't be. Living is an hourglass, and no hourglass is big enough to hold all the sands of the desert.

It is not fair that we have so little time, so little money or opportunity to do even a minute fraction of the things we would like to do, to visit the places we would like to see. It seems next to impossible for most of us to limit our dreams, to reach some accord with the fact that there are limits. We just aren't built that way. We are all kids in an enormous candy store, each piece more luscious-looking than the one next to it, and the one next to that one, and the one....

Motors come with governors, preventing them from spinning totally out of control. People do not. There is no end to our longing, and when we have something, we want something more. It's like the toy the child sees on TV and wants desperately. Desperately! His life revolves around his desire for that toy, and he drives his parents crazy with his pleading. And then he gets it and, while he may truly like it and play with it, something has changed, and he soon wants another toy. Having is not the same as wanting and it is the wanting that drives us.

Someone said it is not the destination that matters so much as the journey, and it is a human failing that while we are on the journey we concentrate so heavily on getting to some specific destination that we do not enjoy the ride. We need to change, to set logical priorities, to pursue things much closer to us. We can still get to that distant, desired mountain if we break the trip down into manageable segments--from telephone pole to telephone pole, say--and take the time to experience the trip from this telephone pole to the next. We should change. We would be far better off if we did. But will we?...Well, we're humans, remember.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).

3 comments:

Kage Alan said...

I've started looking at life like this: we are gathering up memories to take with us when we leave. Envy of someone else takes away time from making even more memories for us to live in after we're gone. If I'm lucky, though, perhaps I will visit some of your memories one day and you can show me around.

Eleanor Raif said...

I plan one day to visit the place where I lived for a time as a child (in West Germany) but have often wondered if visiting again is just as good - if new memories laid over old ones will tarnish the shine those old memories have. I wandered the forests near my home alone, staring up in wonder at ancient trees. I found respite in them. That forest is the one I come to in parts of my first book. It is almost a fairy tale - as many childhood memories seem. Standing wide-eyed in patches of sunlight I believed that gnomes and fairies could be real and hiding among tiny hills of moss and wild blossoms.

I've always been afraid that seeing that forest again might erase the vision in my mind. Having been places where you once were many years ago, what do you think of that? Did you find that to be true or did it meet your expectations and more? Of course you weren't a child as I was. But maybe our wonder was equal.

Dorien/Roger said...

My memories are always open to you, Kage.

And Eleanor, I do hope you do get to visit your magic forest. If you can step apart from your adult mind and see it with the eyes of a child, I'm sure you'll find that gnomes and fairies are still hiding among the moss hills.

Each of us reacts to the opportunity to visit our past in a different way. My finding of the to-me-magical quay was one of the highlights and delights--albeit bittersweet--moments of my life.