Brain Food #808: Travelling light
The past is only part of our story
Thoughts of the day
I recently finished rereading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which examines the idea of Nietzsche’s eternal return, that the universe is made of recurring instances and nothing ever happens only once, what Milan Kundera describes as heaviness.
But, Kundera concludes, things are unbearably light because they will happen only once. Every moment is unique, every experience is unique, and so is every being. As much as we try to hold onto some parts of our lives, or of ourselves, they will slip away, and life will eventually change.
In a ‘lighter’ manner, I started thinking about the act of travelling, and travelling light, the friction it removes from every journey if you don’t have a large suitcase to lug around with you, though I am not always successful in this myself. In an essay on packing and travelling light, reporter Alison Willmore wrote that it “requires only that you accustom yourself to leaving things behind — things that you bought because you thought you needed them, but now know you can get by without.”
We overpack because we optimise for comfort and familiarity in the face of the unknown. But what we carry with us, the amount of items we accumulate and also the more emotional type of ‘baggage’, will only serve to pull us back. Holding on to the past is like walking uphill with a heavy boulder tied to your back. The past is only part of our story; the rest is yet to be written.
When reflecting on the time he was fired from Apple, Steve Jobs also referred to that moment as a release from a certain form of heaviness:
“I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Having a beginner’s mindset and travelling light can both be fantastic travelling companions. As for the rest, we are winging it:
“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.”
— Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
In 1935, artist Marcel Duchamp launched Boîte-en-valise, or box in a suitcase, a miniature leather case that contains sixty-nine reproductions of the artist's work. His idea was to create a small museum, a portable collection of everything he had produced to date. On this day, in 2007, the iPhone was announced, enabling us to carry our entire lives in our pockets. Sometimes, dealing with the past is not about leaving it behind, but about finding ways of being able to carry it, so that it allows us to keep moving.
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