Mind on Travel

By Carsten Ullrich from Shanghai, China (IMG_4230Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There is that cliche about pictures containing many words.  I’m not sure I agree. Anything  can contain words– can hint at vague meaning. Often they contain word salad. No.  The pictures I like tell layered stories without saying a word.  If they don’t give you the whole story, then they give you the start of one.  The very best photographs contain whispers that lead the mind to yet wilder places than what you can see.

The reason why Ansel Adams was a great photographer was not because he could ably photograph a landscape, but because he was able to capture the numinous, transcendent reality armed only with what was in front of him.  That is the definition of a great artist, whatever the medium.

I look at the above and think of travel. I think of Pilgrimage. Is it only to the shrine pictured that this man goes to, or is he on a long sort of journey that involves a number of stops?  I’m not sure why, but I’m inclined to believe he has not met his destination. Something about his posture and gait that suggest there are many hard dusty miles before he can finally rest.

I don’t even think he can head home after resting here– there are many months ahead, against wild terrain, facing both physical and spiritual challenges. What,  we can only guess.

One of the stories I am thinking of starting for NANOWRIMO involves the story of a mendicant traveler in the twelfth century. He deals with daily challenges on his journey, yet in his mind wrestles with doubt and philosophy.  A sort of Canterbury tales meets Mindwalk.  That is about the most alien mindset I can think of that I would feel comfortable portraying as a narrator.  A man such as pictured, is beyond my experience, and to even start I would have to get to know the right people.  I’m afraid, having watched Mr. Vampire (HIGHLY recommended, by the way), read Shogun, and watched a LOT of Anime does not give me nearly enough insight.  Besides, most of that is Japanese, which is yet again vastly different.

I knew a girl in High School who was a exchange student from Taiwan.  We got along extremely well, but I never did really “get” her. She told me that Taiwan was more Chinese than the Chinese mainland. I had heard that from my father, too. He said that the last truly Chinese places were shut off from the world when Kowloon was destroyed, and Hong Kong was given back to the Chinese. Now granted, that’s before we knew that they were going to leave it pretty much alone to do what it always did.  Further, Taiwan is still there.

And what all this means is, I don’t know. I want to know about such things, because the whole world fascinates me. But I can’t write what I don’t understand. But my favorite pictures take me to places I’ve never been, and not even necessarily those physical places. It is the metaphysical places that they describe that lead us onto our own journeys to a foreign mental landscape, where we can see again what we know from a different place.

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