April 18, 2011

The Joys of Travel

The Seine at Bercy

Oh, the joys of travel! To feel the excitement of sudden departure, not always knowing whither. Surely you and I are in agreement about that. How often did my life seem concentrated in that single moment of departure. To travel far, far—and that first morning's awakening under a new sky! And to find oneself in it—no, to discover more of oneself there. To experience there, too, where one has never been before, one's own continuity of being and, at the same time, to feel that something in your heart, somehow indigenous to this new land, is coming to life from the moment of your arrival. You feel your blood infused with some new intelligence, wondrously nourished by things you had no way of knowing.

Letter to a friend


  1. Discovering extra dimensions to oneself through travel is something I'm sure many of us recognise. I warm to Rilke's enthusiasm here. Interesting that he correlates 'blood' with 'intelligence' - heart, body and brain all interfused. (Reminds me of Lawrence's 'blood-intelligence')

    I just love that Cézanne painting, which reveals those fresh moments of new sights and insights so colourfully and intensely.

  2. It's so interesting, Robert, that he used this word "intelligence" as just the other day I was thinking about Howard Gardner's theory of seven intelligences, which I hear about from my teacher husband. (They are: linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.) And I was thinking about how Rilke developed and encouraged another kind of intelligence, which you rightly stated as heart, body and brain all interfused, and I had been thinking about it as holistic intelligence — ever balancing life-death, brain-heart-body, inside-outside — so that boundaries dissolve. I love to think of the heart being where something is first recognized, then carrying it throughout the body and brain where this new intelligence is flowing like a river until we reach the ocean of our death.

  3. ruth when i began teaching the core text in use at that time was the holistic curriculum which posited an approach to teaching children as whole beings. i'm not overly sentimental but it's been the core text of my work as a teacher since that time. rilke's writing today has such resonant affirmation of the sensations and awareness i have whenever i travel. steven

  4. personally speaking i liken my home environment to a secure and numbing gauze. being in a new culture removes the usual expectations, even of self. somehow when we are home we are ordinary. somehow when we are in a new environment we hear our own beating and wonder of it, learn it as though it is a stranger. i miss travel. i miss knowing myself in this way.


  5. « …and that first morning’s awakening under a new sky. » Yes, that’s something! However, those days, before the jet planes, I guess you had a bit more time to adapt – for good or for bad - but you probably knew less about the foreign places in advance than we do and were even more impressed. I also often think about the excitement of travel as such, maybe especially even more before the trains that I guessed Rilke used, not mentioning crossing the oceans.

    About the painting: Cézanne’s painting, which I think is one of his best, is by him referred to as “after Armand Guillamain”, a friend who also exposed at the first impressionist exposition (1874) and there exposed a painting of barges at Bercy (but so differently from the painting by Cézanne, made some two years later).

  6. I think we learn secrets of ourselves, even hidden dreams, when we change our environment.
    I think there is a danger of a slow death wasting a heartbeat when we seek security in the familiar


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!