My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Travel Often or Die Wondering

“Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed” - Newton

Over the last two months I have traveled over 7,500 miles and visited several countries, with many of those miles up and down the US in different vehicles with plentiful stopping. During my recent travels, I have had an abundance of time to see the East coast and Midwest in great detail. What I’ve realized is twofold. First, my equilibrium is in a constant state of motion. I cannot sit still, and that is how I like it. The force that is usually required to slow an object is rarely ever great enough to adversely affect my momentum.

This need for motion has led to a never-ending quest to do and see everything - and I think that this is healthy. Seeing more than your own town is not only a good idea, it’s essential for gaining a perspective greater than your neighborhood has to offer. And in these times of increasing paranoia and increasing globalization it is absolutely necessary for all of us to get out and see the world.

The second thing that I learned was there is large percentage of Americans that never travel. According to the US State Department, only 20% of Americans have passports. (In contrast, 40% of Canadians hold passports). In 1857 Mark Twain quipped, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

That means that a considerable amount of US citizens have never seen a major museum, a good ballet or symphony, or immersed themselves in a different culture. They have never been to a major metropolitan city in the U.S. or anywhere in the world where millions of people from all races live together comfortably and normally all the time. And so they are afraid - of everything. This leads to a downward spiral of fear, unsubstantiated hatred, and blind religious fervor (see my next blog “Your Soul Saved at Half the Price, This Exit!”).

From these realizations and thousands of miles on the road and in the air, I have come to the conclusion that what our country needs right now is for more of us to get out and see the world. I think what they will find is people just like them, with slightly different customs, religions, and foods, who hold many of the same values and manners. They will find that everything else is just politics.

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