Second, it's because of a lack of self-culture that the superstition of traveling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans.
The people who made England, Italy, or Greece
such great places
did it by staying firmly planted where they were,
like an axis of the earth.
When we're being men, we feel a call to duty. The soul is no traveler; the wise man stays at home. When his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he's still at home, and lets people know by the expression on his face that he goes as the missionary of wisdom and virtue, visiting cities and people like a sovereign, not like an intruder or a valet.
I have no cranky objection to world travel for the purposes of art, of study, and goodwill, as long as the individual is first domesticated, or doesn't go abroad with the hope of finding something greater that what he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get something he doesn't have within, travels away from himself, and gets old among old things while he's still young. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become as old and run-down as they have. He carries ruins to ruins.
Traveling is a fool's paradise.
Our first journeys show us how little difference places make. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my bags, hug my friends, get on the plane, and wake up in Naples, and there next to me is the cruel fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I look for the Vatican and the palaces. I pretend to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
Third, the fad of traveling is a symptom of a deeper problem affecting the whole intellectual process.
The intellect is homeless,
and our system of education
Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate, and what is imitation but the traveling of the mind?
Our houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our thoughts lean and favor the Past and Distant.
The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed.
Why do we need to follow the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought and quaint expression are as near to us as any, and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fit together, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied as well.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1997 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.