Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kansas & the Razor's Edge: Eating, Praying, Loving.

Delphi, Greece
"There's no place like home." the wizard had Dorothy say while clicking her heels. I'd agree with that in a lot of ways, but can't help wonder if the gingham clad heroine of that tale would have traded all she learned on her adventure to stay at home and help on the farm.  I think not. The story of home is safety, comfort, predictability. While all those things are nice, a constant dose of them can be stifling which is what made Dorothy long for adventure over the rainbow. She's only able to come to the conclusion that home is the best place in the world after leaving it and learning something about herself apart from it. Had she stayed safely in the confines of Auntie Em's care she would likely spent a life filled with a certain restlessness, wondering what it was she'd missed.  We, knowing all she would have lost out on, shudder at the thought.

At the library used book sale over the weekend I picked up a lovely and worn vintage copy of The Razor's Edge, a story of travel combined with searching for meaning in life, a recurring theme in literature which has more recently given us Eat, Pray, Love. So what is the connection between all this wandering and wondering? Mark Twain said " Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." That is certainly true on a larger social scale but I suspect it may also be true on a very personal level. We are likely to catch a new glimpse and expand our view of, not only the world around us, but of the one within us. We are more willing to let go of our narrow-mindedness about who we are as we embrace new experiences in strange places. We are going, whether we want to or not, to learn something about ourselves.  Finding ourselves outside of our normal roles of employee, spouse, parent--being recast as merely a person in the larger world, is freeing while also being uncomfortable, challenging, and exciting. If "all the world's a stage" some of us desperately need new lines and a scene change from time to time. Our own selves, cast in a different light, may surprise us.

 My dream trip to Italy,  taken a couple of years ago with a friend, was life altering. Something new was woven into the edges of life's fabric and added an inexplicable layer of richness. Questions were answered; others beckoned. We just recently discussed over a long lunch how much fear that we'd harbored for years dropped by the wayside on that journey, a magical turn in a twenty year friendship.  So when I read Somerset Maugham's story of Larry's search for answers I feel for him and the fact that few understand it. Least of all his fiance, Isabel who I dislike and not just because she says "I'm twenty, in ten years I shall be old." I can't help comparing her to Elizabeth Gilbert who enticed us with her journeys through Italy, India, Bali.  Ms. Gilbert would have been an apt companion for Larry's spiritual journey.  Quests call for loyal companions of like mind as all good storytellers know. A fellowship, a band of brothers, at the very least an honest friend, sometimes taken along, other times met along the way. In these three stories the friends are picked up as the roads and the stories unwind. Unusual bonds are forged between travel companions, no one else will quite understand your experiences like those who have shared them.

You cannot travel and remain the same, as Twain knew. You will, as Gilbert knows do some eating, and if you are a conscious traveler you will also pray and love.  You'll try new things and expand your culinary horizons.  You will pray prayers of gratitude and wonder, prayers of thanks for the kindness of strangers.  You will fall in love with art, and sweeping vistas. You will love cities and the people in them, you will love fellow sojourners you meet on the way, as well as love and appreciate friends left behind and relish afresh the comforts of home.

Our distant observations are likely to be vastly different than our close up experiences. You cannot travel and remain the same. The world with all its permeating richness, color, diversity, and teeming  life simply will not allow it.

Shimmering possibilities over the horizon beckon the sleeping gypsy soul.

Home will be waiting when you return.

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