Thursday, September 05, 2013

Tourism of the Mind: The Place From Which You Cannot Return

Are there place you can go in which you really can NOT return unaltered?

I’m thinking that it’s harder and harder to find them. Most places you travel to do their best to help you feel happy, and to reinforce your pre-existing beliefs and values.

Chain hotels, conference centers, and resorts are like that. They’re like artificial flavoring and preservatives to one’s consciousness.

Who wants that?

 It sounds like a comfort zone experience until you start to realize it’s more like the MacDonald’s hamburger a guy kept for 13 years to see what would happen to it over time.

In a word, nothing.

The hamburger mummified rather than decaying. It’s also like the loaf of Mrs. Baird’s white bread that accompanied a big order of barbecue for an office group lunch. The plastic-wrapped loaf sat out on the countertop in the office  2nd-floor kitchenette and turned into a lab experiment. One, two, three… then five, six weeks passed, without any discernible alteration in the “bread.” It even stayed bolster-pillow soft for at least three of those weeks.

I think that if you go to a tourist resort destination in a country that lives, breathes, and eats tourism, you’re likely to become that loaf of Mrs. Baird’s white bread.

Not even the most dramatic “tourist spectacles” (juggling flaming hoops, jumping over fire, banging on steel musical instruments, and energetically choreographed gestures that mimic Dionysian abandon) are likely to change you. You might overeat, drink too much, and get sunburned, and if you suffer a bit, you can then feel temporarily miserable and less sorry to go back to your predictable routine.

However, that said, if the resort is beautiful enough, I think that transcendence is possible.

You can find yourself transformed, simply your eyes are opened and you see magic.

Magic is all around you, and you, yourself become magical. The exaltedness takes over, and all feel are waves and waves of exultation and “lifted-upness” that is, without putting to fine a point on it, worthy of Sir Philip Sidney’s “Astrophil and Stella” and the power of poetics, as the language takes you from the “dungeon of the body” to the high reaches of joyous union with a higher plane of awareness. It takes you out of your daily cares, and scrubs you clean of all the dark, toxic residue of negative thoughts.

Granted, it takes quite the resort to achieve what amounts to a mystical, transcendent experience, but it is absolutely possible. Think volcanoes in the Big Island of Hawaii, the arches at San Luis El Cabo, the long serpentine trail on a ridge just north of Beijing on a feeder edge of the Great Wall.

And, think of your own back yard.

It’s all in how you see, breathe, and approach life.