Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Travel narrows the mind?

Travel narrows the mind. Chesterton advanced this proposition in an essay once to counter the more commonly advanced proposition that Travel broadens the mind.

I suppose most people would unthinkingly agree with the latter thought. After all, what could be more commonsensical? By seeing more things, you become more cosmopolitan, worldly-wise, and more aware of different ways of doing things. And yet because it is so commonly assumed to be so, it paradoxically may not be the case at all.

For instance, many travel to see tourist sights, which in this day and age are simply ways of making money off travelers. Tourists are lead around like cattle not really able to explore because they are not allowed to and often too these tourists don't really want to go to the trouble of exploring things for themselves which is really how they would broaden their minds.

Having seen the Great Wall in China and the Space Needle in Seattle myself, for instance, I can say that I have seen the Great Wall in China and the Space Needle in Seattle. But, how does saying that make my mind any more broad? At the Space Needle, I had a nice view for one minute and then asked myself if this was all there was, and what I was going to do then because there wasn't much to do up there but look. So, I stood in the viewing platform for twenty minutes before I thought it was safe for me to go down. I had spent a lot of money to get up there and didn't want it to go to waste. At the Great Wall, I did have the feeling of whoop-de-do! Here I am at the Great Wall of China! But as someone told me, you go there a few more times, and the novelty wears off. In fact, I have noticed that travel makes most people become jaded. A been-there, done-that sort of person, a Jaded Fuck, is a narrow being indeed. You would think mind-broadening travel would have made him less a pain-in-the-ass to the less traveled sorts. And there isn't anything you can say to these people because having done it all, or at least more than you, you are expected to just listen to them – they have closed their minds to you, you have-not-done-anything-piece-of-poop!

In fact, I am starting to think that as one checks off places to visit on a bucket list, one is becoming more and more narrowed on the fact that one has seen these things. That is, one is narrowed on the idea of one's self supposedly having a broader mind. I think in most cases, this checking off of places visited is only useful for bringing up in an inane conversation in a bar.

Most travelers as well seek only amusement on their travels – again so they can report them back to people they are drinking with. By being amused at the different ways people of the world do things, one only sees superficialities. Superficial things trick us all the time and so narrow the mind because they so often distract us from what is really important about life which isn't its superficiality.

So, how you broaden your mind then if not by travel? I recall that Chesterton suggested that one take the time to talk to one's neighbor, who though close, lives in a world that is separate from his own. And because the neighbor is close to you, you have a common language. Of course, Chesterton lived in a time where neighbors could be noble people. Hopefully, you don't live next to people whose homes or yards are like auto-wreck yards or party zones. I say it best to lie low and grab a hold of some good literature like Shakespeare or the Bible – that would broaden your mind more than anything.

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