leaving it lonely for a little longer

I travel a lot in my work. On those occasions when there is time to be a tourist for a day here and there, usually when Barby is with me, an odd pattern has developed. I find that books like Lonely Planet are more meaningful after I have visited a place, rather than before the visit. I don't think it is meant to be that way...

We've been living in India for almost three years and made multiple visits to places like Fort Kochi (Kerala) and Ooty in the Nilgiri Hills. Love them, more and more. But when I knew nothing about these places, Lonely Planet was kinda boring and full of detail that I could neither understand nor imagine. But after that first visit, I raced back to the travel books, to wikipedia and its footnote trail - in order to align my fresh experiences and observations with their deepening facts and background.

In recent months there have been first visits to Istanbul, Accra and Cairo.  Same thing every time. Just yesterday it was the Pyramids of Giza and the King Tutankhamun exhibition in Cairo.

It was a day for the ages. Once it was over, where do I go? I couldn't get online quickly enough - poring through wikipedia. Later today, passing through the airport, I'll be in a bookshop lost in the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt. Adding context to my observation, knowledge to my experience. Complicated names, obscure dates, and ancient events have suddenly come alive.

Goodness deary me, that King Tut exhibition is 'the greatest discovery in the history of archaeology'. I am standing there staring at his glove, his sandals, his fan and his camping bed ... from 3500 years ago and in pretty good nick, as well. It is scarcely believable. I find myself becoming fascinated by this guy's life (who lived for 19 years, 3500 years ago. Go figure).

I go back to my hotel. With Boltian speed I am on wikipedia and youtube, adding knowledge to my experience - and finding that knowledge to be so exhilarating, even though 24hrs earlier it might have put me to sleep.

How I wish people, particularly preachers, followed this pattern with the Bible.

Read it aloud. Read it in large chunks. Read it again. Learn simple principles of observation and use them. Let the imagination go. Get inside the text. Rub shoulders with the first readers. Make it a trans-sensory experience. Use legit methods of meditation. Enjoy The Message for what it is.
I stop, drop and stare. I stop thinking about what preachers usually think about first. I drop to my knees and pray for God’s help. I stare at the text. I look. I look again. The more we stop, drop and stare, the more we will see.  (O’Donnell, Beginning and End of Wisdom, 145).

Then go to the Lonely Planets and the wikipedias, otherwise known as (the best) commentaries. Don't rush to them too soon. Leave them lonely for a little longer! Let them fill the mind once the heart is aglow - 'adding context to observation, knowledge to experience' - oftentimes finding both to be surprisingly exhilarating.

nice chatting



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