Changing Temples Pt. 3

Changing Temples
Pt. 3

“Chance decides matters better than ourselves.”
Menander 347-291 BCE

I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of “when does the journey begin”?

I recognize that it is self-evident, but doesn’t traveling really begin with that first thought whose origins appear to be vague threads which the mind slowly weaves into a fabric of motion that transcends all the whys?, whens? and other self doubts and leads to the actual act of getting on the plane? In other words, planning the trip is as much a part of traveling as stepping off the train in Venezia. All in all, it is an exceptional delight on a par with the travel experience itself. One of the key differences between a tour and an individual trip is the flexibility, the control of one’s day. Planning helps make that flexibility and control significant.

I suspect that another universal about travel is how Chance drops us in the middle of exceptional and amazing experiences, either terribly frustrating and upsetting or transcendental. However, the mundane preparation for the trip is not bereft of the influences of Chance either. Mostly, however, there are the inescapable necessities that just cannot be left to Chance.

Houseplants, mail, water pipes, automobiles, bill payments, drivers license expiration, tax filing, refrigerator, Spring high water table that fills the house crawl space where the furnace resides, and etc. have a demanding life of their own. They are largely irrelevant if the question is absence of only a week or two. But they expand like a puffer fish if one looks beyond three or four weeks into the realm of the indeterminate. In this instance that indeterminate is a one-way ticket. If I get tired of it I come home. If my rather meagre retirement income can’t withstand the strain of a Euro that is fantastically overpriced ($1.35 U.S. to buy one Euro as this is written!), and if my justifications for depleting long term savings start to ring hollow, I may return in short order. But, it is also possible – Chance, Fate – that I will find enough modicum of contentment to make me stay for an extended period.

So I must plan as well as possible for those myriad and inescapable life responsibilities that seem to be attendant on a 64 year old. Oh my! The extent of planning for concomitant details is amazing. For instance, I have what can be fairly described as a house plant jungle. Due to circumstances of being a Judge in a small town and my own deficits of self, I didn’t feel comfortable asking friends near to hand who might be in a situation to adopt such a demanding brood. But some dear, dear friends outside of Helena (160 miles) agreed to adopt the brood. So, is such a 320 mile, round trip in a pickup filled with plants, highlighted by a low-flying Bald Eagle flaring so that the sun catches it’s gorgeous white feathers, as well as two separate Golden Eagles happily feasting atop road-kill deer, not part of “travels” as much as the train ride from Paris or that first, rainy, cold day of low grade panic in Venezia??

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 2

Changing Temples
Pt. 2

“To go fishing is not to cast the hook
But to take the rod from it’s resting place”
EWP 1970

I have some life experience which leads me to believe that any one contemplating travel wrestles with universal issues when doing so. In my particular universe, the first is both philosophical and psychological – Why the hell go at all? What for? And a myriad other self-doubt questions.

More on that, but first other of those “universal” issues – perhaps just unique to my unusual frame of reference. A second is, at what point is one actually traveling? In other words, when does the journey begin? Third, why write about one’s travels, or any other topic for that matter? More to the point, why seek to blog it (they used to use the verb “publish”).

I can only offer partial universality in my “why go?” inquiry. As noted, this particular iteration is simply a running away. When still caught in the Black Night Soul Vortex, I cast the I Ching. As I have found almost without fail in 41 years of consulting that “oracle”, there is an uncanny ferreting out of the particulars of my human condition as it sits midst the universal. For those with a bent for more insight, I have added below a brief summary of the result. Suffice it to say, “It furthers one to have somewhere to go, to undertake something”. So undertake something I have done, both the travel and this Travelogue.

One of the most profound influences on my life was a work called ‘Twelve Against The Gods’, by William Bolitho. It’s subtitle is “The Story of True Adventure”. Since first discovering it as a Junior in college, that has been my story – creating an Adventure out of what Fate has offered and foibles limited. This current matter is, for the very first time since discovering Bolitho, not what I would categorize as Adventure. Rather, I prefer the word undertaking – with all the wonderful Shakespearean potential for humor that such a word carries as well as the I Ching guidance.

At any rate, the solution was travel. I’ve always told myself I liked it, and I believe I do. It’s been exactly 30 years since the last time I was a traveler and not just a tourist. That time it was exploring the Mother Goddess tradition which took me to Romania before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

This time I travel, with a distinct nod toward Socrates, knowing that I am taking myself with me. However, I have a vision of manifesting those aspects of my basic self that are good humored, gregarious, and which delight in each person’s unique story; as well as that self that also delights in history, art, music, food, wine, companionship, and, if I can do so, community. That’s what would satisfy and the lack of which made that abyss edge of despair so unsettling and so fraught with emptiness.

Continued . . .

I Ching
Cast 9/21/12
Hexagram 24. Fu / Return
Change from Hexagram No. 2 (The near future as opposed to the near present.)

It is the time associated with the Winter Solstice

After a time of decay comes a turning point. The old is discarded, the new introduced. It is a Return to the beginning of yet another phase in your life. Remember, it is the end of an old cycle – beware old, unhealthy patterns in that cycle which may attempt to establish themselves in the new.

Movement and action, but through devotion – natural, spontaneous – not force or artificial hastening. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time – this is the meaning of heaven and earth. The RETURNING situation will establish itself of its own accord. Contemplate and adjust your relationship to this new phase in order to afford yourself a comfortable position within it.

Movement is at its beginning. It must be strengthened by rest to avoid premature dissipation. Treat tenderly to obtain the flowering.

Societies of people sharing the same views are formed.

Things cannot be destroyed once and for all. Return is the stem of character (formation) and self-knowledge. It is vision into the mind of heaven and earth. Return to one’s inner light, deep soul. Knowing the Divine in the deep soul means to know oneself in relation to the cosmic forces.

It furthers one to have somewhere to go, to undertake something.

Friends come without blame.

The better your attitude about certain fated conditions in your nature, the more pleasurable your life becomes.

On being told that a man had complained because he hadn’t learned anything in his travels, Socrates replied: “That’s because he took himself with him”.

Changing Temples – Traveling In History
The Travelogue Blog

This is an unusual Travelogue in that it is about real travel but also about the Psychology of Travel, the History and Myth in and of Travel, the Philosophy of Travel. It is intended as a Travelogue in the tradition of Montaigne, Tavernier, Chateaubriand, and countless others one can identify from the 16th, 17th, and other Centuries. It is also an exploration of the Metaphors latent in Travel – metaphors that not only inform the history one comprehends before one’s eyes, but also informs that internal history, which, as Socrates noted, shapes what one learns by shaping the essentials of one’s supposed “freedom” of travel experience on a day by day basis.

Fundamental to the honesty necessary in such an undertaking is some exploration of the compulsion to record the experience. Admittedly, it goes deeper than just recording, than attempting a translation of experiences into a grand and oh so new metaphor for a grand and not so New Age. The very heart of the matter finds one foraging amongst fundamental needs. Those needs are hard to grapple with, for they may be weaknesses, they may be vanity, or they may be that always lurking ego. Whether weaknesses or vanity or whatever else, I know precisely what the fundamental driver is. In the depths of my psyche at least is a longing to want to leave an history that lasts somewhat beyond the perishableness of memory. That is why this Travelogue involves the philosophy of the soul. Some leave children, some leave the grandest of adventures that change or cheapen history itself, some leave multi-volume works on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. My honesty is that I think I will substitute pretending I’ll actually get close to doing anything even remotely approaching a grand contribution to History by writing this travelogue about traveling “in” it.

Perhaps by vicariously walking through the historic, I can translate the vainglorious dream into some productive effort? At any rate, there are other less profound reasons and motivations for this undertaking which I have denominated as “Changing Temples”, as traveling history. Reasons that are, perhaps, more revealing or at least sufficiently justifying.

A broken heart foremost. The seemingly numerous memory triggers that initiate vertigo on the chasm edge of despair. No remedy – home, garden, warm wood stove midst cold winter days, the most calming of music, too much wine – comes close. So, the solution that rises to the top is to run away – into history, for want of a better destination.

So, why describe this as “Changing Temples”? One of the remarkable attributes of three Zen Masters I’ve studied is that each was an artist, calligrapher, poet, (at least one) a lover, administrator, mentor, and all loved drinking Sake with the local farmers. Even when well into their 80’s each would up and change temples. (Three Zen Masters: Ikku Sojun – ‘Crazy Cloud” 1394-1481; Hahuin Ekaku,1686-1768; Roykan Taigu,1758-831, John Stevens. Kodansha Biographies).

Sometimes even a Zen Master finds changed environment a good thing or a necessity, apparently. Why not someone lesser?

A marvelous historian secondarily. Fernand Breudel. ‘The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (2 vols) and The Structures of Everyday Life 15th – 18th Century (1st of 3 vols). If Genoa was the world’s foremost banking center in the 16th Century, what role does banking play there today? Not earth shattering in import, but a modicum of justification to examine and explore. If Venice was the one of the most significant shipping and sea powers in the 16th Century, do they now just ship tourists in and out? Not to be forgotten is Edward Gibbon and his ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. Having read the first three and one-half volumes three times, I find fascinating not only the stunning comparisons with another, significantly more modern Civilization but also the language of the Enlightenment which, as you will likely experience in my posts, still informs my rather overwrought use of the English language.

Third, not ‘hard travel’. There is something to be said for the reasonably familiar – a recognizable alphabet, grammar, and language in which an English Literature major and a traveler who can survive in Spanish and French will not feel alien – Italy, but focused upon it’s Mediterranean aspects ala Braudel.

Not finally really, but also those other reasons that are non-rational, wrong-headed, and altogether fantastical.

Continued . . .