Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our Need to Travel

When I think about the notion of travel, it never crosses my mind that it would be for any reason other than pleasure. My parents are never required to travel for their careers nor have I ever had to pack my things for a destination other than that which I chose for enjoyment. Wendt’s Black Rainbow is eye-opening in that the progression and movement of the book depend on a venture of desperation, on an assigned and necessary route that must be undertaken without personal thought. As others have already done, my personal traveling account harps on my study abroad experience in Cork, Ireland. I hope to illustrate Wendt’s idea of the “purpose” for travel with my own interpretation of the same idea. Also, I will attempt to share my own traveling story while portraying the necessary characteristics of what I believe comprises a human life, a central theme in Wendt’s novel.

My family’s history is rooted deep within its Irish heritage. I remember beginning my college search and ridding schools from my list that did not have options for study in Ireland. My fascination with spending a few months in Ireland stemmed from my parents never having been there. Our house is adorned with Irish decorations throughout the year, only changing colors with the holidays. Since I was little, my mom would always say how she hoped to get there one day and perhaps it stuck with me and became my own need or desire to get her there. The idea of travel, for me, was always to fulfill something, to fulfill my parents, and especially my mom’s, desire to see a land they had only heard about from their own parents and grandparents. When my parents did get to Ireland, we traveled as much as we could in the five-day span around the south of Ireland and genuinely appreciated each moment. In this sense, travel exists in order for people to share in some common history, either their own or merely just the history of the land, and to learn, appreciate and gain something from the time they have there. In Black Rainbow, however, the time Foster has in each place is limited because of the regulations of the Tribunal and therefore cannot be appreciated or felt. A characteristic of traveling for fun is to learn and discover as much as one can in the place in which they are. It is not (as it is for Foster and for forced travels) to overlook the present place and obsess with the future and what the future may have. I believe that Wendt also believes that travel, regardless of the place, is an opportunity for growth.

We learn about the narrator’s journey to recover his family quite early in the novel. His family had been taken by the Tribunal in order for his placement into the sect of “Chosen Ones” to come to fruition. Wendt uses the narrator’s expedition as a means to demonstrate an ordered, involuntary action assigned by a society that has taken his entire life from him while making him identical to those around him. I think the most important aspect of the novel is Wendt’s attempt to determine the composition of human beings, to bring to light its essence. Wendt argues for both human capacities of reason and of free-will. He shows Foster’s gradual progression from an inanimate being, one which was controlled by the Tribunal and acted without thought, to an animate being which acts according to his own desires.

I genuinely believe that Wendt wants of us to understand the limited human life we have. He is trying to show that without feeling and emotion, there is not much to the lives we lead. Without free-will and the ability to act on emotions, we are simply objects going through the motions never experiencing that which we are meant to achieve. I believe him to be requesting, through this sort of warning, that we question and challenge things in our own societies. The Tribunal offers a limited scope of human understanding and, thus, a stunted growth through lives that are not tested. As Foster continues on his journey and as he learns more about himself and those around him, he becomes inherently more human by questioning those institutions that he had followed without original thought. The Tribunal repressed all people's desires by giving them everything they thought they needed in return for their obedience. I think a desire to travel, to leave one's safe-haven and to experience others, is a very natural yet not always tested human desire. Traveling then, in this sense, is meant to connect to other people’s lives and not to exist other than, or apart from, them. It is to be immersed in them. Ireland had given me new perspectives on some American ideas that I would not necessarily have thought about on my own while being stateside. I believe Wendt to be saying that we should experience as much as we can with an open-mind, because it is through this exploration that we can better understand our own humanness and consequently our societies. -

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