Sunday, November 20, 2005

wanderlust

I love PBS. It's the only TV programming I know of that doesn't rot one's brain. I just finished watching a documentary about South Africa. I've been to Johannesburg once, briefly, a long time ago. I've always wanted to go back.

They showed everything from the beaches of Capetown to the diamond mines of Kimberly to game reserves and shantytowns and traditional ceremonies. I cried when they toured the apartheid museum and again when they showed an orphanage for children whose parents were victims of AIDS. I can't remember the last time I cried before today.

It kills me sometimes, being stuck here in the U.S. I meet so many people who were born and raised right here in the metro D.C. area and have never really branched out from here. To them, a trip to Philly or Atlanta is traveling...I have nothing at all against these people, but I can't imagine living in a world so small.

Don't get me wrong. I bitch about W. and the war and the lamentable state of environmental policy in America, and some people like to come at me with the whole "love it or leave it" mentality. I do love my country. There's nothing at all like the sweeping grace of the Grand Canyon, the majestic spread of a live oak in coastal Texas, rocks jutting up from the cool, impassive Pacific on the black sand beaches of northern California, the vistas of hazy cerulean along Skyline Drive in the Virginia Appalachians...

But this is just one small place in a very big world. And I can't imagine committing myself for life to such a limited experience. There are so many beautiful places I've never been, so many people from so many different cultures, so many ideas and thoughts and dreams...how can I know who I am without venturing out into the world to experience the things beyond my own finite horizon?

The trouble is, I don't know how to get there. I don't want to just go for my own experience (though that's certainly a bonus)...I want to do something good, something useful. I want to serve something greater than some corporation's swollen pocketbook. It could be anything--teaching, writing, reporting, helping where help is needed.

There are few things I'd risk my life for. I'm not a thrill-seeker. I find confirmation in things like backpacking, meeting new people, or even just reading a good book. I'm not interested in bungee jumping or racing motorcycles. But if I had the chance to go to Iraq to report on the war there, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Because I think it's important, and because I'd like to see for myself what it's like over there. I'd like to talk to people and try to see the world through different eyes. And I'd like to share that experience.

How can we possibly decide whether we should be having a war when most of us (myself included) have no idea what war is like? How can we weigh the costs and benefits of our little enterprise in the middle east when it's nothing but a few printed lines in a newspaper, a photograph of a place and a people so removed from our own experience that we might as well be examining a map of the moon?

I want to learn, I want to be more than a collector of material goods, eater of French fries (or "freedom fries," god help us), follower of inane celebrity gossip, watcher of reality television (whatever the hell that means), living my small life in this small place with small ambitions and small ideas. And I want to meet other people all over the world who feel this way, too.

I'm so frustrated sometimes by the attitudes of some Americans. Since when did disagreeing with the current president's administration become unpatriotic? And since when did loving America become synonymous with believing it to be the only worthwhile place on the planet?

I just want to experience more than this...

1 comments:

Mary said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your blog, and I just wanted to let you know that this post really resonated with me. It basically sums up everything thatI feel, and it was incredibely well written. My life is a maelstrom of wanderlust, it seems. :)