Friday, January 8, 2010

a citizen of the world

for better or worse, that's been one of my lifetime goals. the reason for so much past travel, the excuse for resisting a localized patriotism.

for example, i've sat on my mountain-top and felt the world to be very, very small. there's the milky way, after all. and these clouds, they cover just a bit of the sky and from above seem like little children.

and out at sea, during coast guard active duty, i realized the ocean about the size of an ice-cream cone. at least, that's the way it looked with the horizon bending down abruptly. the sea appears much larger from the shore.

or even in the twenty-nine mile view of lake tahoe from my north shore lookout i watched the earth curve. you don't have to go to the moon to see we're a tiny dot in space.

of course, being a citizen of the planet you may feel at home nowhere on its surface. despite almost thirty years in the same town i'm a stranger, almost invisible. and when i walk out the door, it doesn't necessarily feel bounded and secure. we moved thirty times by the end of my high school career and that alone may make it impossible to feel completely grounded.

i remember one move, leaving hamilton, montana, when i'd turned nine, in the third grade, and we headed to california, mid-winter, in a model A ford. as we drove out of town, the trees seem to die and the streets became strange. each time i've moved the last place loses its manna, its aura. santa cruz, california now as distant as the roman empire.

all that said, a life is more than a sum of its parts. i just scanned and posted pictures of my trip to new zealand in 1987.

and at first they depressed me. a diary tells so much more than pictures. and as you know, when you come back from a journey, the photographs pale beside the actual experience. gradually, however, they supplant it. perhaps my memories of thailand, sri lanka, india, and nepal so vivid because i did not carry a camera. there's only one reason to take pictures, to bring back the faces of people you've met. oh, and you get to see yourself next to the taj mahal. even if this can be created in photoshop, you know you were there.

i love the internet. it's done what we needed: put us in touch with each other. i hope it never becomes controlled by any one authority. that very chaos allows us all to experience the world as a whole.

a sidelight. took pics at the local theater of a new year's review. for some reason they came out looking like a german cabaret. guess i didn't spend five years in europe for nothing (including a berlin basement in the sixties).