For instance, I was extolling the general value of the Rockhound Principle recently. The perfect place to apply this principle is in the reading of books. Where else can you benefit more from infinite patience with "detritus?" Instead of feeling disgusted, you can channel this into delight when you finally do find something precious. You can also work to ensure that the precious nuggets you find stay found, by actively assimilating them into your life.
Recall that I was reading "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco. All in all, I don't recommend it. Still, there were a few precious nuggets on the way through the book. The leading character was a monk trying to solve some murders in a monastery in the early 1300s. One body was found in a vat filled with the blood of recently slaughtered pigs. When his sidekick concluded that the dead monk had drowned in the vat, the main character said, 'But have you ever seen the face of a drowned man. This isn't it.'
Perhaps the visual image of that made an impression on me -- an impression that stuck. It was a happy coincidence that I walked into a coffee shop in the Zion area, just after reading this. Reading, by itself, can be so tedious and dry. But if it is combined with something in the arena of active experience, the two become dance partners.
National parks tend to attract a certain cultural stereotype, and there were plenty of them in the coffee shop. Most people were from the Big City. They imagined themselves to be hip, cool, and sophisticated. They were lost in their own little gadget worlds in the coffee shop. They seemed so engrossed in what they were looking at. Like it was so important!
In fact it was probably routine weather reports, emails, and cute photos of somebody's cat. Surely this amazing look of concentration and self-importance was the 'face of a drowning man' -- drowning in absolute trivia.
I don't mean to beat up on gadgets as the culprits in a busy lifestyle of drowning in trivia: television perfected this 50 years ago. (Watch the movie, "Network", if you haven't.) Going further back than that, writers in the 1800s ridiculed the daily habit of newspaper reading.
By another piece of fortuitous rockhounding I stumbled across a quote [*] from Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher/theologian of the first half of the 1800s:
On the whole the evil in the daily press consists in its being calculated to make, if possible, the passing moment a thousand or ten thousand times more inflated and important than it really is. But all moral elevation consists first and foremost in being weaned from the momentary.That is a thought that a fellow can take off to the mountains and contemplate for awhile.
|Gnarly details in the foreground of daily life can sometimes lead to the nebular development of more general thoughts.|
And where does that leave us, sinful bloggers that we are? Do we really take advantage of the fresh perspectives that travel can sometimes foster, or do we settle for conventionality, mere description, and phony pragmatism? We need to see concrete experiences and visual stimulation as a first step, and then move on to "What does it mean?" Timeless meaning.
[*] from Malcolm Muggeridge, "Third Testament."