Sunday, December 26, 2004

From Buffalo to Benares

A young person of idealistic and questing bent, imbued with the characteristic romanticism of youth, having perhaps read some Hermann Hesse, dreams of making the journey to the East. But if such a person cannot find enlightenment in Buffalo, where the water is pure and mosquitoes rare, why on earth does he think he will find it in Benares where the water will give him dysentery and mosquitoes are ubiquitous?

Rather than set off for distant lands, our young idealist should hearken to the home-grown wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for whom

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. ("Self Reliance")

On second thought, perhaps our young idealist should verify this truth for himself since for most, only what is learned the hard way is learned at all.