A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Journey As A Psychological Quest

One of my favourite travel books is Goethe's Italian Journey . . .

Some journeys — Goethe's was one — really are quests. Italian Journey is not only a description of places, persons and things, but also a psychological document of the first importance. 


Some quotes from the book itself . . . 

My purpose in making this wonderful journey is not to delude myself, but to discover myself in the objects I see.

Wherever I walk, I come upon familiar objects in an unfamiliar world; everything is just as I imagined it, yet everything is new. It is the same with my observations and ideas. I have not had a single idea which was entirely new or surprising, but my old ideas have become so much more firm, vital, coherent that they could be called new. 


Naples is a paradise; everyone lives in a state of intoxicated self-forgetfulness, myself included. I seem to be a completely different person whom I hardly recognise. Yesterday I thought to myself: either you were mad before, or you are mad now.


When I indulge in self-reflection, as I like to do occasionally, I discover in myself a feeling which gives me great joy. Let me put it like this. In this place, whoever looks seriously about him and has eyes to see is bound to become a stronger character . . .  At least I can say that I have never been so sensitive to the things of this world as I am here. The blessed consequences will, I believe, affect my whole future life.

Nothing, above all, is comparable to the new life that a reflective person experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always myself, I believe I have been changed to the very marrow of my bones.



The Weaver of Grass said...

I totally agree with that last paragraph Robert - nothing compares with the experience of life in a new country. Love Naples, although it does have its seedy side - but then so does everywhere if you look for it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Naples must be my favourite Italian city, Pat — apart from the magnificence of Rome and the bedazzlement of Venice.

Ruth said...

These thoughts of Goethe's really resonate with me and my experiences in new places. I wish I'd been to Naples now. Beautiful photos.

Ruth said...

I like this from Rob Brezsny today, which reminded me of your post:

"To achieve what the Zen Buddhists call "beginner's mind," you dispense
with all preconceptions and enter each situation as if seeing it for the first

'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities," wrote Shunryu
Suzuki in his book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," "but in the expert's there
are few.'

As much as I love beginner's mind, though, I advocate an additional
discipline: cultivating a beginner's heart. That means approaching every
encounter imbued with a freshly invoked wave of love that is as pure as if
you're feeling it for the first time."

The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth, I adore what you say and quote here, and I love Suzuki's book, which I read many years ago and has always stayed with me.

The Solitary Walker said...

And Naples... is just... tremendous... including all the dodgy parts. The Archaeological Museum is fantastic!