Quote Du Jour: Travel Narrows the Mind

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

g-k-chesterton

I have never managed to lose my old conviction that travel narrows the mind. At least a man must make a double effort of moral humility and imaginative energy to prevent it from narrowing his mind. Indeed there is something touching and even tragic about the thought of the thoughtless tourist, who might have stayed at home loving Laplanders, embracing Chinamen, and clasping Patagonians to his heart in Hampstead or Surbiton, but for his blind and suicidal impulse to go and see what they looked like. This is not meant for nonsense; still less is it meant for the silliest sort of nonsense, which is cynicism. The human bond that he feels at home is not an illusion. On the contrary, it is rather an inner reality. Man is inside all men. In a real sense any man may be inside any men. But to travel is to leave the inside and draw dangerously near the outside. So long as he thought of men in the abstract, like naked toiling figures in some classic frieze, merely as those who labor and love their children and die, he was thinking the fundamental truth about them. By going to look at their unfamiliar manners and customs he is inviting them to disguise themselves in fantastic masks and costumes. Many modern internationalists talk as if men of different nationalities had only to meet and mix and understand each other. In reality that is the moment of supreme danger–the moment when they meet. We might shiver, as at the old euphemism by which a meeting meant a duel.

Travel ought to combine amusement with instruction; but most travelers are so much amused that they refuse to be instructed. I do not blame them for being amused; it is perfectly natural to be amused at a Dutchman for being Dutch or a Chinaman for being Chinese. Where they are wrong is that they take their own amusement seriously. They base on it their serious ideas of international instruction. It was said that the Englishman takes his pleasures sadly; and the pleasure of despising foreigners is one which he takes most sadly of all. He comes to scoff and does not remain to pray, but rather to excommunicate. Hence in international relations there is far too little laughing, and far too much sneering. But I believe that there is a better way which largely consists of laughter; a form of friendship between nations which is actually founded on differences.

— G.K. Chesterton, What is America?

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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3 Responses to Quote Du Jour: Travel Narrows the Mind

  1. Will S. says:

    Interesting take by good ol’ Chesterton.

    I’ve always been suspicious of the claims by progs that travel opens one’s mind. I suspect that those whose minds are ostensibly opened by it were already inclined that way. For me, while I enjoy visiting other places, it has never made me become much different than I already am; I can appreciate what I have in common with the people of other lands, while remaining acutely aware, in fact becoming even more so, of the differences. Travel doesn’t make me more prejudiced, but neither does it make me ‘grow’, in any real way, far as I can tell.

    Like

  2. Spike says:

    Travel is what dullards do to appear interesting.

    Like

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