Travels with Kapuscinski (1) – Why? or “The Delight in Life”

He is a wonderful travel companion; tireless, humble, inspiring, full of understanding and wisdom. One couldn’t wish for better, more enlightening company. The great Ryszard Kapuscinski. When I first read his books, I had the strange sensation that there was finally somebody who understood…

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In “Travels with Herodotus”, Kapuscinski muses about the need to travel…

“… We do not know what draws a human being out into the world. Is it curiosity? A hunger for experience? An addiction to wonderment? The man who ceases to be astonished is hollow, possessed of an extinguished heart. If he believes that everything has already happened, that he has seen it all, then something most precious has died within him – the delight in life. Herodotus is the antitheses of this spirit. A vivacious, fascinated, unflagging nomad, full of plans, ideas, theories. Always traveling. Even at home (but where is home?), he has either just returned from an expedition, or is preparing for the next one.Travel is his vital exertion, his self-justification is the delving into, the struggle to learn – about life, the world, perhaps ultimately oneself.”

As a young man he felt the need “to cross the border”…

“…this was only about crossing the border – somewhere. It made no difference which one, because what was important was not the destination, the goal, the end, but the almost mystical and transcendent act. Crossing the border.”

Just the thought of ‘crossing the border’ causes a feeling of elation, of happiness, it scratches the itchy feet. The bubble is rising to the surface, the need to go, to move, to explore. To be able, like Herodotus and Kapuscinski, to ‘delve into, to learn – about life, the world, perhaps ultimately oneself’.

“Is it because you think the grass is greener on the other side?” some may ask.

No, not really. It doesn’t really matter. It is more about the need to find out if there is grass on the other side, what colour it has, what it looks, feels or smells like. To experience it – life, the delight in life.

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Perhaps, ultimately, it is about the desire to find out, as a dear friend suggested the other day, what it is that holds the world together on the inside…

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