Saturday, March 21, 2015


Life's a journey and not a destination. Or something like that said by someone around 1920.

Once upon a time, I traveled weekly on a regional train back and forth to New York City. It was usually early morning or later evening, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied for part of the trip by a friend through serendipitous timing (regional train travel has a regular crowd).

The trip consisted of a series of intervals spent in front of computer screens, alternating between laptop and smartphone, punctuated by window gazing - at least when the sun provided visibility. General restlessness pervaded the trip because the time sitting on a train was a coda, a moving way station before important business meetings or a drive home.

The time passed methodically, as long as the train was not delayed or slowed by deer. Sometimes, other passengers started conversations, but I was more content to sit alone and pass the time without talking, hearkening thoughts.

This routine offered insight into an inner world of hopes and anxieties, the kind of thoughts that a typical busy day crowd out of the mind. The moments of window gazing somehow awakened this inner world, unlocked from the subconscious where these thoughts typically hide in the shadows. Interesting to note that the inner world thrived most readily in the times of soft light, window gazing at dawn and at dusk when the day is most pregnant with possibility.

My mind returns to this state as I embark on another sort of journey this year, reminding myself to dream and to grow, reclaiming the inner world and harnessing its ability to unveil insights out of reach from the everyday. 

I end this reflection with words from Alain de Botton whose delightful book, Art of Travel, shares a similar take on power of a trip to evoke thinking.

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do. 
At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves - that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are. 
If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.” ― Alain de BottonThe Art of Travel

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