Monday, August 10, 2015
I have found that one of the benefits of traveling is the opportunity to see the world through new eyes — to realize that there is more to life then the day-to-day petty challenges that I face. Too often we become so involved in chopping down a tree that we fail to see that the world is filled with more trees than those on the tiny acre which we occupy.
Wandering the streets of new towns and cities and encountering new people changes our perspective of the world and our place within it. We often realize that our problems and challenges are small and insignificant compared to those of other people. We learn to see the world differently and through new eyes.
I have learned that taking the time to step away from my day-to-day challenges reduces the stress in my life and clears my head of the issues and problems that normally occupy center stage.
I discovered this my sophomore year in college. My freshman year had been filled with concern about the problems and challenges facing the American people. War was killing the youth of our nation as well as the men, women and children of Vietnam. Riots were burning the hearts of our cities. Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Young people were beaten in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention. And I considered dropping out of school.
In September of 1968, I boarded a plane for Kingston, Jamaica with twenty other college students. We spent 13 weeks immersed in the culture and history of the country as part of a Study-Service term abroad offered by our small church college. We studied the Rastafarian movement, Spanish and British imperialism, banana plantations and Jamaican literature. We spent seven weeks in a service project.
We did not read American newspapers or listen to American newscasts. The problems in America faded slowly away. The problems Jamaicans faced had less to do with race and more to do with economics. War was not on the daily news. Jamaicans were proud of their recent independence from Great Britain and believed they had a bright future. The pace of life slowed and the stress of being a student in the turbulent sixties in America slowly faded away. I began to see the world through new eyes.
When I returned to the United States in December, the election was over and Nixon had won. America still faced the same problems and challenges that it had when I left. The world had not grown any better. But I had changed. I was still concerned about the issues, but I was calmer and understood that change took time. I could not change the world, but I could change myself. By stepping away, I had come to see the world differently. I had come to see my place in the world with new eyes.
About Henry Miller
Henry Miller was born to German Lutheran parents in New York city in 1891. He wrote several novels including Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Sexus. He also painted 2,000 watercolors and played the piano. He was married five times and died in 1980.