hope everyone is having a great holiday season and is looking forward to the
New Year. I just got back from seven days in Rome, which was highlighted by
great food, amazing sights and — I hope — some pretty good photographs.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photos here, along with my thoughts
from the trip. I found myself taking notes, returning with pages on food,
travel, language barriers, imagination, cultural similarities and
differences. I shot over 400 photos which I’ll probably edit down to around
a dozen or so.
During the trip an odd thing happened that I want to share, and it makes a
decent introduction to the next few weeks of posts.
On the third morning in Rome, which made it the fifth day of vacation, I
woke up with a dream still vivid in my memory. I was in my childhood home,
surrounded by paintings I had made. They were vivid and intensely colorful,
and though I didn’t recognize them as anything I had painted before I knew
that they were mine.
When I woke, I found my mind strikingly clear — my imagination seemed
sharper, my thoughts were more random, my conclusions more varied. It was
almost as if the time spent travelling and relaxing had a cleansing effect
on my brain. This lasted throughout the rest of the trip, and I had to
wonder what had changed.
Obviously being “on vacation” helps immensely. But the change was so
apparent and intense that I wanted to spend a little more time on the
possible cause. I have to wonder if perhaps our brains aren’t wired for a
set amount of information to flow in and out. Which is to say, if you have
too much coming in then you can stop up what flows out.
In Washington, I sometimes get the feeling of sensory overload: television
and the internet, movies, music, phones and newspapers, classes and email
and work and books and conversation and text messages. They all seem to be
throwing information at me — things I need to take in and process.
the trip to Rome, much of this overload was gone. I spent more than a
week without internet access, which is something I can’t recall ever
happening over the past 10 years. I didn’t once read a newspaper. I
didn’t use an mp3 player. I had no cell phone, and only twice tried to
make phone calls: to make a dinner reservation (failed), and to confirm
a flight (also failed). Even street signs and advertisements were
removed from much of my thinking, since they were in Italian.
And so I have to wonder if, having greatly cut down on the incoming
stimulus, I didn’t start compensating with the outgoing.
Of course, you can also just say I was on vacation — away from my normal
life and routine, far from usual haunts and set paths. I was refreshed.
And, the simplest solution usually being correct, that is probably true.
But spending a week with nothing to do but wander, observe and eat, did
made me wonder.
I don’t know if this feeling will last, or if will fade as the barrage
of information returns. It makes me wonder if simplifying my life
wouldn’t help this change to be more permanent. But reducing outside
stimulus seems near-impossible when you spend most of your day working
in front of a computer (as I do).
The goal of course, assuming the premise is right, would never be to cut
out all the extraneous stuff. Instead, perhaps pare it down, reduce it
and streamline it a little. But even that simple ideal even seems tough,
knowing that work and play and simply existing in a city means a
constant flow of both necessary and not-necessary information.
I’m sure there are ways, and over the next few weeks I’ll look for them.
Perhaps I can simply surf the internet less, watch television less, even
read the newspaper less. Or, perhaps not; perhaps my routine is so
rooted in these things that I will quickly move back into usual ways.
Indeed, I’m now writing this and will soon update the web site.
Whatever the result, it’s been an interesting experience: a reminder
that our brains have more potential than we’re using; a glimpse through
the clutter that at times obscures.
All Images Copyright 2006 --