So I don't want to be a total downer, and I certainly don't want to be a NYC-hater, but I feel like I've lost track of half the goal of this practice since I got back to New York. It's been incredibly meaningful, useful, and illuminating to take time every day to do something just for myself, but I'm not so sure I've felt any joy since coming back to the city. I'm not positive I haven't, but I'm not sure I have. I'm clear that taking the time for pure selfish joy has been better than the alternative—to do nothing for myself—or to not even try to find joy.
I've also noticed that this project makes for a much duller blog than the first one did. It doesn't leapfrog so easily to other of my life experiences, and it doesn't lend itself so easily to explore the mussar mides (middot)—although I'm not convinced it won't eventually do those things.
And with these thoughts streaming around my head, I sought something for the day. Even though it was supposed to be a day off, I had a 10AM meeting, and a bunch of work I had to squeeze in throughout the afternoon. I also had therapy in the city, errands to run in Brooklyn, and the last of the address change administrative work from my move. I had hoped to go apple picking or something fun and outdoors, but most of the day turned into a work and busy work day. Also, it was super chilly in the apartment (and out) so I was doing all this in a hat, scarf, and gloves (inside and out) which didn't add to a sense of relaxed well-being.
And so when I saw the National Geographic on the newsstand—50 of the World's Last Great Places—with a photo of the Rock Islands of Palau on the cover, I bought the magazine on impulse. Experience pristine locations! Discover unforgettable landscapes! Explore unspoiled environments!
I spent the next 45 minutes flipping through the pages, drawn in most deeply to places with green waters and high cliffs, and also to the Northern climes with rust-colored forests and massive glaciers.
I thought about the last Big Trip I took, when I cashed in all my inherited (from my mom) AmEx miles and went to France and Sweden (green waters! high cliffs!) I thought about the places in the world I've never been. All of Asia except Sri Lanka, all of Africa, Australia, all of South America except Argentina, most of Central America except Mexico and Honduras, all of Eastern Europe, much of Western Europe .... so many places I've never been, fewer that I have. And I thought about what it means to me to be able to understand the world by seeing it. I thought about my friends who travel a ton, and I thought about my friends who rarely or never travel -- either by choice or by lack of access. And I thought about Humility -- this week's mide, which asks us to seek wisdom from everyone, and I thought about how useful I find it whenever I leave the US, to seek the wisdom of the rest of the world. Even just being exposed to the rest of the world is humbling, let alone actually getting a chance to learn from people.
Now that I'm writing this, I also question the entire paradigm of the magazine, because among the places I know nothing about but look spectacular on their pages, they include the Florida Keys, which I wouldn't exactly call pristine and unspoiled. So then, what's Palau really like? What about the fiords of New Zealand? But while I was immersed in it, I was just letting myself be transported away from NYC, and into these beautiful aquamarine places. Maybe I can find joy in NYC after all ... when I'm dreaming of leaving for someplace that looks like this: