Life’s Tourist

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“I am a tourist in many world’s without belonging to any one of them,” she said. It is true that she moved in and out of a dizzying number of worlds. She mentioned extreme emotional situations she had been in as if everyone wandered in and out of places like that without being taken hostage.

I had the sense that this emotional tourism was the result of never finding a place she cared to stay. We stand on islands, the ocean spreading around us. We call out to each other in ever more ingenious and desperate ways.

I hear Joni Mitchell singing over and over: “All I ever wanted… was to come in from the cold.”

If she were a tourist of worlds, I have been a tourist of women. How many of my writings begin with the words that a woman said to me? Ultimately, probably all of them as I listen to women with the greatest attention. The word of God in my world issues from a woman’s mouth. And walks in a woman’s body. I have no problem with a feminine God.

Tourism can be an antidote to one’s self. Tourists are always running from something or toward something else. When we stay in one place it is because we have at last found peace or we have gotten too exhausted to chase it any longer. Which can also be a most merciful form of peace.
Until then, we are tourists on a train that does not stop.

My college girlfriend came back from lecture pumped up by her brilliant (and wildly seductive) Comp Lit professor. They had been unraveling John Milton’s verse about Adam from “Paradise Lost”:

For contemplation he and valor formed

I decided then and there that if I were to ever get a tattoo, that is what it would say. In my mind, I may have conflated the contemplation and the valor, finding valor in mere contemplation. While the observation of life has been my principle pleasure, I sense that there is something empty in a life devoid of action. If one merely watches life go by, one has not been present. One has been a mere tourist.

But in the photograph above, I am standing still. The train is moving at high speed, so much so that the train is a blur, its churning wheels revealed only by some curved, transparent reflections. But the rails themselves (the world that facilitates movement but does not itself move) are in crisp focus. The light that is hitting the pavement is still and sensuous. If there is any doubt, the guardrail is down, keeping me back from the train if there is any last-minute confusion, some urge to return to old ways.

I am standing still, at last, watching from calm, as the train passes by.

— Kevin Carrel Footer

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