January 27, 2011

Book Notes: Lunatic Express

- Now I needed to do something huge, to jar myself out of life - and that was what long journeys did best. There remained so much I still wanted to know and see in the world, and I hoped that I might come home with fresh eyes.

- Books sweep you up, take you away, transport you. 

- I wanted to look into every boat, every house. I wanted to touch each person, to taste every meal, to open up and slip into each like a suit of clothes. But I couldn't. The world was too big. Too diverse. There were too many languages and not enough time; it was easy connecting with people like families in first class. We had a shared language, technology, worldview. We all loved prosciutto and Picasso and lying on the beach in the sun and sitting with friends in a cafe. But to pass the days with poor was something else. I sat up, gazed into the darkness. We slid past a boat with no lights at all, just a black shadow, it's gunwales underwater, the dim outlines of figures standing at the stern. The deeper I pushed, the harder it became to know them, the more ignorant, curious and powerless I was. Each was a world unto its own that I could glimpse but never know. 

- But it wasn't hopeless. It wasn't the end. Every moment we had the choice to forgive ourselves and try again. And suddenly I didn't to run anymore; I wanted to be those people  on trains and ferries on Buru, lying in tangled piles, holding hands  instead of running. Travel - my journey - was showing me what I wanted, craved, giving me perspective for the first time in seven years. 

- But how can you not live that life, taste that taste, after you've had it? 

- It was time to go home. Time to complete the circle. Travel was only worthwhile when your eyes are fresh, when it surprised you and amazed you and made you think about yourself in a new way. You couldn't travel forever. When you stopped seeing, when you lost your curiosity and openness to the world, it was time to return to your starting point and see where you stood. In everyone, I suspect, lay a tension between the need for otherness and home. We all want security, we all want adventure, the familiar and the new always jockeying for control. 

- To be known, to let your guard down, was scary; how ironic that so many of us fled instead, that we didn't allow ourselves the very thing we wanted in our deepest souls. The lure of foreign countries and cultures has always been escape, but also transformation, redemption, discovery. 

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