26 August 2009


Another church, museum, castle, ruin, plaza/meydan/piazza/trg/Platz/place/nàmèsti/square, nearly every Old Town blurs into every other through cobbled streets and labyrinthine back allies. Window shopping stuff I don't need which would only clutter the flat and become one more thing for some future someone to wonder over and eventually discard, I realize that my prize today would be to feed a stray cat, perhaps be allowed a pat down its back.

I began traveling to see how other groups of humans make their way in the world, to see for myself what works and what doesn't, attempt to understand why. This traipsing through other people's lands and lives does move me to learn more of history, how each group has come to be who they are. Clichè or not, those who fail to learn from it are doomed to repeat it; human nature does not change. But now, maybe only just for now, I am jaded. Ancient cities are just accumulations of people and their stuff. Old is only there because no one bothered to tear it down. It's all just what people going about the business of living have left behind. The mystery and the magic have gone out of it for me, for now. I am tired of kings and conquest, the fighting to and fro to gain and lose another hill. War, then and now, is adolescent and a wicked waste. Yet, mankind seems never to tire of it. I see little evidence that we, as a species, will ever understand that enough is enough. We have one planet to live on, a finite piece of real estate. It would take far too much agreement among essentially egotistical, self-serving humans to share it responsibly.

Not that the curiosity has abated, but my focus is shifting. Individuals are still working it all out for themselves. That is where I stand, in the middle of one life, trying to make the best choices every day. What people do with their own private corners of the world, the daily rhythms and rituals to keep body and soul together and head out of the oven, remains fascinating. Dougie MacLean's Scythe Song has the line, "This is not a thing to learn inside a day." It put me to thinking about these discreet boxes of time, between waking and sleeping again, when so many things do come to pass. There are happenings in life that seem too wonderful or too horrible, simply too big to fit inside a day; a birth, a death, walking out, jumping in. I try to remember that I can't know what of these things may have already happened inside this day to anyone I meet on the street. I fault people for being wrapped up in themselves, oblivious to everyone and everything around them. But, perhaps, if I took a greater interest in their lives, understanding would spread, human connection would be strengthened. Maybe, just maybe, one day at a time, we could go from fighting The Other to lifting up each other. And some day, historians and tourists might look back and talk about the era when humanity began to grow up.

For now, I'm ready to let the old stones lie under their dust, step off the tourist road, and appreciate life and lives where they appear and move through their days in this age.

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