12/4/13 Traveling Towards Irrelevance

The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.

G.K. Chesterton

 

That Chesterton is so annoying. He takes the obvious and demands that I stare at it until I see its obviousness. There is no escaping him once you start. Arguments against him are undertaken at one’s own peril.

We are all sojourners here on this earth. We are all headed towards a final rendezvous. Some of us will meet our final rendezvous unexpectedly, suddenly… tragically, some might say. The rest of us will pass through an increasing irrelevance prior to our final rendezvous. I have watched my own approaching irrelevance like a farmer watches an approaching hailstorm. I am not all that happy about it but am powerless to do anything other than stand fast and rave at the approaching storm. That, however, serves no purpose.

Our irrelevance approaches at an accelerating pace. When we are first aware of it, our irrelevance is masked by our ego’s inflated illusion of its relevance. This is the first thing to be damaged, though it is not an actual increase in irrelevance. It is more a clarity of vision which enables us to peer through the façade we have created for ourselves. The façade was never real.

After that shock, we then can really witness our approaching irrelevance. We are able to recognize that our children are truly grown, having become men and women in their own right, and having never listened, certainly will not even to pretend to listen in the future. We each must blaze our own way, making our own mistakes, purchasing them at a dear price, which provides us with the only lessons we ever truly learn. If we have done our jobs well as parents, we have at least taught them to give heed to their own mistakes and not repeat them.

That is probably the first step towards true maturity, and simultaneously the embarkation point on our trip to irrelevance: that moment when we are faced with an adverse situation, not knowing what to do, yet adamant about several things we know will not work, which we know we will not do, thus eliminating several blind, dead-end alleys right from the start.

The moment we reach the realization that we cannot be everywhere, do everything, nor be included in everything, and this no longer hurts us. The moment when we understand that there are youthful fantasies we held on to for such a long time, that we still cling to because we think that we are supposed to . . . only to realize that our dreams have changed . . . that what we wanted is no longer what we want, and that we are content with what we have. When you start thinking this way, your irrelevance is approaching faster than you think.

When we are young, our world is very small. It expands greatly to encompass everything we know about or can imagine, then it begins to shrink. We start out in a limited space with a small circle of friends and family, and we end up with a limited space and a small circle of friends and family, having passed through an immense universe to get back to where we started.

If we have been a traveler, we have seen what we have seen and it has influenced us in a profound way since the world exists externally to us and our opinions of it. If we were a tourist, then we only got to see what we came to see, and it delighted us or disappointed us in its limitations, because it must be limited because it is a product of my own limited vision.

I have been a traveler and I am still on my journey. I have seen things I never could have imagined. I have seen things that were remarkable. I have seen things that were majestically inexplicable. They have filled me with wonder. They still are.

I started out a tourist, like everyone else. Thank goodness for the many people  who exhorted me, in some mysteriously unknowable way, to abandon my tourist take and learn to enjoy my travels, for a traveler learns contentment in witnessing the things that are revealed to him. The tourist? He invariably finds what he came to see. He then either likes it, or not. It is unfortunate for the tourist who does not like what he set out to find once he finds it. His great disappointment could be that it looks not like his mental picture; his greatest disappointment could be that it does.

We bypass wonders in search of our mental picture. We miss the trip in a hurry to get to the destination. If we are to persist in doing this, then let us all hope that the destination is worth all the things we missed on our unrelenting way. It is likely, though, that the destination we arrive at prior to our final rendezvous is the date with our own irrelevance.

The traveler will see this as another thing to be observed on his travels. It is the tourist who refuses to see the relevance of his own irrelevance; he didn’t come here for that.

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