Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
I didn’t blog on Thursday because I was back in New York City, where this all began. And I was preoccupied with personal matters (not all of them pleasant), catching up with old friends, and generally contemplating life.
The contemplation continues, so here are only some not altogether coherent thoughts.
T. S. Eliot once wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
I was back where we started, and in some ways, as familiar as it was, I knew the place for the first time. The smell of the city like takeout food on the cusp of going bad, the reflections in panes of glass if not in the hearts of men, the egalitarianism of the subway where half a dozen languages are spoken in each car. But more on that elsewhere.
I've been spending a lot of time visiting friends, from my former secretary to law school classmates to chance acquaintances who became close. So that made me think about friendship, especially Montaigne’s essay on friendship and what makes it special. The gist of it is that friendship is unlike all other types of human relationships in that they are at least partly motivated by other causes.
Blood relations are motivated by obligation: “Aristippus for one, who being pressed home about the affection he owed to his children, as being come out of him, presently fell to spit, saying, that this also came out of him, and that we also breed worms and lice.” Marriages and romantic relations are motivated in part by physical desire and, once the marriage contract is entered into, also by obligation.
Not so with friendship, true friendship, which is purely the result of two souls’ inclination toward and comprehension of one another. “If a man should importune me to give a reason why I loved him, I find it could no otherwise be expressed, than by making answer: because it was he, because it was I.”
On the couch of one friend I began reading his copy of The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I don't usually read advice books. I picked this one up because another friend had commented that I seemed halfway there already to achieving the lifestyle Ferriss recommends. How can I, how should I, get past the final hurdles to reach the lifestyle of the “New Rich”? Suggestions are welcome.
Ferriss wrote a foreword for Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. Potts tells a tale from ancient Christian tradition about how we put off traveling:
A couple of monks named Theodore and Lucius shared the acute desire to go out and see the world. Since they’d made vows of contemplation, however, this was not something they were allowed to do. So, to satiate their wanderlust, Theodore and Lucius learned to “mock their temptations” by relegating their travels to the future. When the summertime came, they said to each other, “We will leave in the winter.” When the winter came, they said, “We will leave in the summer.” They went on like this for over fifty years, never once leaving the monastery or breaking their vows.
Well, I’ve left, and I don’t recommend that you all stay. And yet surely for some of us, the right course is to stay in the monastery and spend our lives in devotion to our God. Not everyone is cut out for vagabonding. And sometimes our true calling is right there at home.
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."