Judging Myself by Others

United airplane_2It isn’t all bad, you know. It’s a reality check…a way of seeing myself in a mirror of my surroundings.

On the phone my son and I were discussing my path in life. I called him to check in with ideas on changing the world and we got sidetracked to our impact on that world and it’s impact on us. Since I’m ready to take off across the world again I am weighing the heft of my carbon footprint against the advantages of travel.

Together with my contemplations of what is important in my life come reservations of how I am changing the cultures of the places I visit. In seeking the simplicity, authenticity and connection of people and lifestyles in other communities am I then changing those same places? Needs must, I suppose. If I am changed by the people I meet, then I will also affect  them.

By this circuitous route our conversation evolved to what we can learn about ourselves by the people in our lives. Is this a way of counting the cost?

Have I broadened the world views of my children and grandchildren by my appreciation of Asia, Europe and Latin America? In some small way are the younger generations of my family more open to ethnic and cultural differences because of my great love and appreciation for people in Italy, Greece and Mexico? Have they all traveled more because I’m an experience junkie? And, ultimately, has our travel helped us to break down personal barriers of race and nationality?

It can’t but help.

By now I am surrounded by what I have learned in my own journey. Judging by my friends and family, I have gathered much in my travels.  And I have not yet reached Ithaca.*

The Road to Ithaca by C V Cavafy

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.

Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.


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