Friday, August 17, 2012

Kenko: on travel

Essay 15

"It wakes you up to take a journey for a while, wherever it may be.  As you walk around the place, looking here and there at rustic scenes and mountain villages, everything seems most unfamiliar.  And how amusing it is the way people snatch the first opportunity to send a letter back to the capital:  'When ;you get the chance, don't forget to do this, don't forget to do that.'  In such a place you really notice everything.  Anything good--the the possessions you have brought along with you --seems better, and anyone you meet with artistic talent or handsome features seems more impressive than he usually would.   It is delightful also to go into retreat at some temple or shrine, unknown  to anyone."

-- Kenko --
from Essays in Idleness
trans.  Donald Keene

Being in an unfamiliar place does awaken one's senses, or perhaps it would be more accurate that one is more aware of one's surroundings, possibly a behavior that has significance.for the evolution of a species.  Those species that are not more aware of their surroundings in unfamiliar places may not be alert to the dangers there.  Survival depends upon being aware of what's in the neighborhood.  This trait still exists, I guess.  On the other hand, this may also account for the statistic that most accidents occur in or around the home.  One becomes careless and unobservant in familiar surroundings, thereby allowing for more mishaps.

I find it liberating in some odd way to be somewhere among people who don't know me. I no longer have to act in a certain way because I'm expected to act that way.  I can perhaps try out something new, if the opportunity arises, for I'm free of the most restrictive and universal repression of  behavior known--I don't have to worry about "what the neighbors will think."

I remember, way back when in the '60s , the banal popular platitude was that one couldn't trust anybody over thirty.  I was, therefore, quite happy when I turned thirty, for that meant no one should trust me, and since I couldn't be trusted, I didn't have to act according to their expectations,  and consequently now I was free to act as I chose without fear of disappointing anyone.

After all, I wasn't to be trusted anymore.

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