Εν τόπω στυγερώ - En un sitio atroz - In a flagitious place - Dans un lieu abominable

Σκέψεις - Thoughts - Pensamientos - Réflexions - Riflessiones - мысли

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Location: Πλανήτης Γη - Tierra - Terre - Earth

Friday, March 01, 2013

Travelling

Many have spoken before me about what travelling does, how it changes people and how it opens up the mind. Maybe I do not have anything significant to contribute to that but I need to turn my feelings and sporadic thoughts into words and sentences in order to understand myself.

They say that travelling opens up your mind. Opening up your mind does not only mean to make it more spacious so that it can contain more or receive and accept easier. It also means opening up your viewfield and seeing further. We humans often have the tendency to get stuck in small things; get stuck in the shortcomings of others, the misfortunes of our days, in bad moments, unfortunate words that come out of one's mouth, get stuck in space, in family, in ideas.

Travelling (and by that I do not mean sightseeing or doing tourism, but treking through the minds, the customs and the worldviews of other humans) puts on your mind a wide angle lens. Maybe you can't see the details but you can see the big picture, the vast horizon and the real significance of things. A local (and we all are or briefly become locals at one point or another) is using a macro lens to see his world. Every detail, no matter how insignificant or ephemeral, occupies a big part of his reality, becomes the centre of his existence.

Travelling helps you see things from far, whether that is in your personal life, politics, history or science it makes you realise that while the present is all there is, the present is insignificant in the long run. Like the small blue dot of Carl Sagan, all our aspirations, all our fears, all our pains and envy become an insignificant dot in space. And when the lens we look at the world becomes wide enough, then something strange happens: the picture becomes so wide that the "I", the ego, disappears. You can only then see life, the cosmos, within its endless time and space without the limitations of the "now" and "I".

Some might think that all this is useless and empty theoretical words but the practical significance of such realisation is staggering. One of the most common answers I get around the world, throughout cultures and generations when I ask what can be done to improve the human experience and not lead humanity to extinction, is "nothing" because the system is too big to change and this would take decades to alter. That is exactly the behaviour of humans stuck with a macro lens in their minds. Everything that is worth it does not come immediately and does not fit in a macro lens. You and I , our lives and hopes are insignificant. We are mere grains of sand in the immensity of the world and of history. However, our lives take the significance that we give them and the nobility that we assign to our goals. Goals only serve us like the stars serve the sailors. They can never be reached but they always show you the way.

When you travel your dogmas collapse, your nationality, culture or identity (whatever all these things mean) shrink in importance but vastly expand in area. One can visit many countries and end up not having travelled at all. Similarly, one can stay for most of their life in one place and grab every opportunity to travel through the minds and experiences of others. The young Monti comes into mind, the 25 year old Herrero who had never left more than 100 km away from his village. He had however travelled more than most people have. He would stop every visitor or bypasser and interrogate them to exhaustion. How are things in your country, what do you think about the governments of the world, how do you sing, love, behave within your families? When he learnt that I taught physics he kept me for a few hours more and called his friends so that someone with an "authority" would corroborate his position (that his friends found ludicrous) that the earth is not flat, that the stars are actually suns suspended in space and that all living things have evolved from other forms of life.

No matter what you do, where you are and who you are with you can continue travelling within this random pattern of chaos that some dare call life.
Then life takes meaning and each moment becomes a treasure to be cherished.

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