zondag 4 oktober 2009

Easy talking

Flying should be made much more expensive, that’s what I sometimes say. And why do not more people travel by train?

But yes, it’s easy enough for me to talk like that. Because I do not like to spend my holidays in Asia and I hate driving. I prefer skating to skiing and I think meat is tasty, but mushrooms and nuts are not less so.

Is there anything fundamentally wrong then with the love for distant journeys and expensive or less expensive cars? On the contrary, it can be enriching to travel. It can broaden your horizons, and it can confront you with different lifestyles and habits and thus help you bring your own axioms into perspective. Cars anyway extend our mobility and opportunities.

It is undeniably true that a lot of people do not achieve that enrichment, because they especially look for the sun and for their own national holiday colony. But for some people the desire to culturally look beyond their noses is authentic indeed. Is there any objection to make against it? And then, should people be discouraged to fly?

Is there something inherently better to my preferences, except that the environment would benefit? I do not think I could defend such a statement. Man apparently has been created as a curious creature and if that leads to a collision with the rest of creation, then we must conclude there is a flaw in that creation. There is little we can do to that.

Yet, another question keeps hanging. To what extent are we driven by boredom? Do perhaps the monotony of our lives or an intense feeling of futility make us visit all corners of the world? When Awee Prins in his book Uit verveling talks about the dissatisfacted saturation and despondency of the nineteenth century Russian bourgeoisie, he notes: "A constantly tried, but never healing medicine for those bored people is: travel".

And the question that comes next: is that – the boredom – also a flaw of creation? Is boredom – in an ordered society – unavoidable and inescapable? Or does creation give us opportunities to escape? Not by flying to Asia, but through the confrontation with some surprises at home, at work, on the street?

Levinas thinks so indeed.