Monday, December 03, 2012

wiser, but less happy

Where did you visit this year?

Orlando, FL
Elgin, IL (several times)
Bridgewater, VA
Atlanta, GA
Richmond, IN
Knoxville, TN
Chicago, IL
St. Louis, MO
Cape Henlopen, DE
New Windsor, MD (several times)
Easton, MD

Roanoke, VA (several times!)
Portland, ME
Philadelphia, PA
Ocean Isle Beach, NC
Atlanta, GA

That list still feels long to my recently fully employed pastor self. Professionally, it's been a year of stacking things one on top of the other. I've been attempting to travel less for as long as I've been consenting to travel more. Even now, tethered to a place and living just a parking lot away from my job, the amount of time I spend in cramped airplane seats is obscene. It's too much. I am still working on it, slowly but...surely?

Despite its toll, travel lives up to its reputation. I like hitting the road and getting out of town every now and then. Who doesn't appreciate a perfectly crafted road trip playlist? I get to see good people and far-flung friends. Airports are perfect people-watching venues. And almost every one of those towns has at least one charmingly unique SOMETHING to appreciate: Knoxville's accents and barbecue; Philly's Ben Franklin post office; St. Louis' gooey butter cake; Portland's rocky coastline and tide pool treasures; Atlanta's coffee shops and weddings (#1 reason for return trips to my former home).

I am no fan of faceless suburbia, and am having to dig deep to find the things about Manassas that make it a place of its own. Leaving is helpful - both to escape those feelings of anonymity AND to be reminded of the ways this is - nonetheless - becoming home.

Thomas Jefferson, a very wise man (he was, after all, trained at a great American educational institution), in a letter to his nephew:

Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge, which they may apply usefully for their country; but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret; their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects; & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men, who travel, are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite, by repeated and just observations at home. The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the motion of the blood; it absorbs all their affection and attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, & its recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this, that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired, & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects, as in your own country, nor any, wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. 

(This is part of a month's worth of year-end reflections. Entire list of questions here.)

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