Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Traveling Man

When I travel to new places, I become increasingly impressed with my own ignorance, a trait I normally like to keep under wraps. It isn’t just that, to get where I’m going, I stand in long lines like a sheep, pass through machines that penetrate my body, and sleep sitting up. Far more unsettling is that, in the comfort of my armchair back home, I had a clear understanding of the world, which was delivered to me in books, newspapers, my computer. Then I ventured “out there” and discovered that I didn’t have a clue. For every single thing I knew turns out to have been a projection I imposed on a world that is too vast, diverse and messy for me to grasp. I think we all do this. If we didn’t create a subjective framework to order the world around us, we would be bombarded by the chaos, much as the autistic children I once taught felt besieged by the stimuli that came unfiltered to their minds. Likewise, when I landed in Burma on a journey I hope to write about this week, I encountered a world of colors, smells, sights and ideas that overwhelmed me. I had left everything I “knew” back in my armchair. I had to take the country on its terms, not mine, and I didn't begin to understand it. Travel forces us out of our smug isolation and challenges our preconceptions. That’s why Hilary Clinton’s 900,000 miles traveled and 112 countries visited is not a statistic; it’s a secretary of state’s job description.

They Endure

Coming Home