Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nietzsche and Desert Tortoise Fences

The other day I noticed fences, intended to protect desert tortoises. (Or some other species. It hardly matters to the rest of this post.) The fences seemed so elaborate and expensive. Common sense asserted itself to make me think, "You've got to be kidding..."

By luck I happened to be reading Mencken's book on the "Philosophy of Nietzsche." Imagine Nietzsche pulled though a time machine to modern America. I don't think he would be an angry white man about what he saw.  More likely he would just sneer at modern culture and say something like, "I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be this bad!"

The limiting case for his sneering may be these fences. What could more perfectly embody the "slave morality" of the masses than treating endangered animal species as though they were so precious. Nietzsche would have thought it was just fine that a superior species, such as homo sapiens, could wipe out an inferior species like the desert tortoise.

You may disagree with Nietzsche about this. That is not the point. This was a splendid little example of how travel can make reading a book more interesting, and vice versa

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Building Character in a Canyon


I had a rematch with a complex canyon system recently. Would it still be interesting -- even after hitting it pretty hard the last few years? Proceeding through the canyon, the experience became more subjective and internalized. What could I do differently from the past? Or should I forget about myself and "externalize?"

Indeed, something was quite new this year: instead of walking the canyon, I was mountain biking it on my new bike, with 3 inch wide tires. These "plus" tires do quite well on the rubble and sand. I highly recommend that anybody in the market for a new bicycle go with 3 inch tires.

The experience also seemed new because biking is faster and cooler than walking. Walking is so slow that it almost numbs the mind. And it is warm.

The canyon has a badlands type appearance because much of it is rather soft and easily eroded.




The trick is to focus on it qualitatively rather than quantitatively. Think about the variety of interesting shapes, and how they got that way, rather than on how BIIIIIG things aren't. 

One single thought made a big difference to me, subjectively: I imagined sculptors coming into the canyon and carving gargoyles into these canyon walls.



Soon I was seeing gargoyles every hundred yards -- but something more than gargoyles: sculptural autochtons that grew out of the bizarre shapes of the canyon walls, and merely intensified and stylized the ideas already in the canyon walls.

So much fuss is made over petroglyphs made by the early tribes of the Southwest. Why use a two-dimensional art to merely scratch the rocks, instead of three-dimensional sculptures? Then again, maybe sculptures were made somewhere, and they just haven't been found. Eroded by time and weather, they collapsed into a cloud of dust at the bottom of an unknown canyon.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quality Travel Experiences

Strangely, a certain coffee shop near St. George, UT, has been the location of a couple different experiences for me, memorable because there was something to them, other than scenery.




The coffee shop was located in an affluent housing development, at the foot of red cliffs. Until recently the coffee shop had a gift shop built into it -- the gift shop was trying to look like an Indian 'kiva.'  (Presumably the gift shop was "inspired" by the small Indian reservation, nearby.) 

It always seemed ironic and thought-provoking that Native American culture appeared so upscale and glamorous in the gift shop, with the expensive coffee table books, hand-carved wooden flutes, music, books, etc.; and yet, the genuine Indian reservation a mile down the road was a slum. (I rode my bicycle through this irony when I rode with a local club.)

But this year the kiva-gift-shop had been converted to an expensive restaurant. Presumably the menu featured items 'sacred to the Native Americans,' while in actuality they probably came from the Sysco truck, as with most restaurant food in the USA.

So that was a disappointment. But on the positive side I was reading a book on Russian culture and literature. During the 1800s, intellectuals went through a period of romanticizing the peasants of "Holy Russia."

It was delicious to think about that delusion in Russia while standing in a place in Utah that featured an analogous delusion.  There is no idea too ridiculous to be universally popular with intellectuals at some time or some place.

This is one more opportunity to give an advertisement for the strangely satisfying experience of reading the right book in the right place, when traveling. But why is the satisfaction so profound? Perhaps it is because different planes of existence are temporarily and serendipitously overlapping.