Friday, February 27, 2009

God Grant Us Humility...

Marco enters a city: he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man's place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in that square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else's present. Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.

"Journeys to relive your past?" was the Khan's question at this point, a question which could also have been formulated: "Journeys to recover your future?"

And Marco's answer was: "Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have."

-Italo Calvino, "Invisible Cities"

I'm discovering more and more that traveling is not about learning, but instead about unlearning. It's not about gaining knowledge or experiences, though surely this is a very positive side-effect, but it's rather about realizing how much knowledge and experience you don't have. It's about humbling yourself. There is so much I will not know in my life, and traveling is showing me more and more that I'll never know, making me realize that knowledge is not the goal of life at all.

With this comes comfort. Knowing that I do not and cannot know everything is a relief. It helps me realize that life is not so much about how much you know or what field you are learned in. Instead, it's about who you are and what you do with that knowledge. How we apply whatever knowledge and experience we have is more important than merely having the knowledge and experience. For me, this has put everything in such a different light.

Seeing as knowing everything is an impossibility, knowing anything becomes icing on the cake. Pity that most of us have to be thrown into entirely new circumstances to realize just how small we really are and refocus on who we want to be.

Another interesting thing I've noticed here in Greece is that every time I leave a place, it's monumental for me because I realize that I'll probably never go back to that place ever again. I mentally prepare myself for every visit. I try to come in with a blank slate, without expectations, take all the pictures and meaning I can, and leave happily. I wonder how much that transfers to the daily grind. Every moment in our lives is the only time we'll ever experience that particular moment, ever have that particular opportunity to do something, etc.

There's no real overarching theme or point to this post, just ponderings of my travels that I wanted to share. Happy carnaval weekend to all of my Greek readers!


Bill Pershing said...

Mark: Never look at it as a bad thing for you will never know when your journey will bring you back here...again.

Robin said...

The worst moment for any atheist is when he feels grateful for something and has no-one to thank!

do meditate on it.