Friday, April 29, 2011

This is probably not gonna make much sense...

They ask us what we want to do after school, after high school, after college, after everything.

We want to get into the university or college of our choice so we can get a good degree so we can get a good job so we can buy a good house so we can have a pretty wedding so we can give our children everything so we can buy more things and eat more food and spend more time on beaches with blue water and no garbage on the sand and then save up for our kid's colleges so that they can go to the school of their choice and get a good degree and get a good job and buy a nice house and marry a good spouse and save their money for their kid's colleges.
Or...we want to see the world.

We want to take a year off before doing anything. We won't apply to Princeton, or Harvard, or Brown, or Cambridge, or Oxford just yet. Or we won't get a job and settle down and buy a nice house or get married or have children or anything socially and economically important during this next year or so.

We want to get in a plane, either alone or with one or two friends and travel across the world. Tokyo, New York, Sydney, Beijing, Mexico City, London, Jerusalem, L.A, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Rome, Quito, Paris, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Edinburgh, Miami, Boston, Bogota.

We want to stand at museums, and peer at archeological areas, and walk around with a guide while snapping photos of the pretty ancient places. We want to hear the story of the men and women, sit in good restaurants, buy nice foreign things, and complain to the hotel manager that their service is terrible, even if it isn't half-bad.

After a year of traveling we'll go back home with a smile on our faces. “You should have seen that museum!” “I fell in love with the city...” “The food, the food! It was so good!” “The people are very nice...” “We took a tour around the university, and saw the most interesting things...”

It'll be months, years, or maybe never at all when you realize that even after traveling for miles around the world, you really saw nothing at all.

When I was thirteen, towards the end of 8th grade, I trapped ghosts into a box and labeled it the “Ten years project.” The contents were simple. My first novella went in there, the one I'd written when I was eleven, going to twelve. The first part of the novel I wrote on a notebook through out 8th grade while avoiding all human interactions. The first diary I ever received. The postcard I bought from Earnest Hemingway's house, where I watched behind a caged door where he sat down to write stories. The postcard I got from Kennedy space station, where I cried while sitting underneath an actual space ship, surrounded by people that were eager to head to a restaurant. Black and white photographs of people I'd never met, people I'd heard about, and ghosts that would never truly be mine; in short. Notes I passed on to my best friend during 7th grade while we slowly planned for little bits of revenge. And finally, a small, handwritten letter to twenty-three year old me, as well as an assortment of objects I have probably forgotten about already and can't bring myself to mention.

At fifteen, I saw Diarios de Motocicleta (the Motorcycle Diaries.) It's a story most people already know. Che Guevara and Alberto Granado traveled through out parts of South America on a beat up motorcycle, famously called La Poderosa, with little to no money in their pockets, lying their way out of trouble and into plates of food, driving on a vehicle that will give its last breath soon, helping those they could help, and understanding the suffering and poverty of the common people through out each of the countries. Though I have never truly known anything about Che, this is a story that interested me.

If they had brought with them wads of money or if they had traveled by plane the entire way, Che would have never seen the countries for what they truly were. The United States isn't Times Square. Italy isn't the Colosseum. Mexico isn't the tiny, pretty gift shop filled with Mayan designs.

I tell people that they complain too much, that this country is in a far better state than most nations in the world.

But how do I truly know that?

At the age of thirteen I decided to make something that would remind a twenty-three year old me what my life had been like up to a certain point, as well as the things that had been important in my mind. Maybe at the age of twenty-five, I'll actually see the world for what it really is. I'd need to actually know a few languages—so far I've got two down. Some way to help people as I travel, as well as understand them. Virtually no money in my pocket. Maybe I'll go alone, maybe I'll bring a friend, or hopefully a translator if I'm still terrible at listening or speaking.

Maybe our human side of the world is up in ruins, or maybe there really is more good than bad. Maybe suffering and struggle don't truly go hand in hand. I'm not sure.

Could I do it?

It's certainly not an original idea. I don't know what I'm trying to find, or to understand, or if anything will happen as a result of this. Chances are, I won't change even a fraction of the world. But maybe the one reason I've decided to do this is the same reason I've always written about.

This might be my way of waking up, to see the sky and remember what I am.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.