The Real Journey
Marcel Proust wrote that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. This strikes a chord with me. In the first four decades of my life, I moved at least 14 times, I lived in almost every major city along the Eastern Seaboard and some as far away as Texas.
I managed to be miserable in every one of them.
I quit a dozen good jobs, I wanted to live almost anywhere but where I did live. I wanted to be a potter on Cape Code, a literary figure in New York City, then a poet in the East Village, a writer in Cambridge, Mass. a journalist in Washington. I always believed paradise was one move away, and I nearly drowned in my fantasies and illusions. Eventually, and blessedly, I came to understand what the real problem was, and that was that wherever I went, I came too.
I came to see that in West Hebron, New York, living alone on my big 90-acre farm. Every face I saw in the mirror was mine, wherever I went. This new idea came as a great shock to me, but it also helped me begin to live an authentic and meaningful life, a work that is always in progress, every single day. Almost as soon as I had this revelation, I found love in a place where it was unlikely, if not impossible, and then I began taking photographs, and I had new eyes.
I came to see the world anew, I saw things I had never seen before, and in new ways. Inspiration is a curious thing, I believe it comes from deep within, not from without. If I didn't know who I was, how could I possible see the world outside of me clearly?
I see every day as a voyage of discovery, a thrilling adventure, I am surrounded by new and beautiful landscapes, but discovery truly comes from new eyes. I know a writer who always wants to talk about health, mostly his, and I tell him I do not talk about my health outside of my family, and not even then, it is not something that interests me or anyone else.
I embrace the ethic of discovery, of being open-minded. Today I told my writing students that as we get older, it is crucial that we embrace what we fear, that we learn from the young, that we not dismiss change as fearful and de-civiliziing, as beyond us. Being a writer or an artist or a teacher or a police officer does not mean what it mean a dozen years ago, and if we wish to be relevant to the world and join in the great conversation, we must make that trip, take that voyage.
The world is not a better or worse place than it ever was, it is the world as it always has been, in some ways better, in some ways worse. It pulls us up and down, just about every day, challenges us to think and grow. Change is the only constant in our lives.
I don't look to move anymore, where I live is somewhat irrelevant. I have new eyes.
There are good people and bad, good news and bad, so many things to learn and discover every single hour. Grandma Moses summed it up, life is what you make of it. New eyes help me see.