Monday, March 12, 2012

Buenos Aires Churches, Yes, But Mostly Other Thoughts

Today I got some photos of the inside of a couple of churches,  one is the metropolitan cathedral,  the other an older church.  They're below,  feel free to peruse them.  What I really want to talk about today though is not the photography or the churches.  In fact I'm feeling a little adventured-out,  and I'm not feeling 100% well either.  Nothing serious, just tired and sleeping more than I would normally.  So,  enough about that.

What I really want to talk about is one of the reasons I wanted to travel, and that was to understand better how the world works.  And perhaps I've gotten some of that.  I've seen traditional manioc farming in the Amazon basin,  and giant hydroelectric projects in southern Brazil.  I've seen crappy roads turn into wonderfully well maintiained roads simply by crossing an international boundary.  I've seen people dancing at Carninval until 5:30am and still going strong after I was well past my bed time.  I've met lots of other travelers from all over the world: Ireland, Hungary,  Israel,  Canada,  Germany,  Holland,  even a few from the US.  But what I didn't think I was getting was a better sense of how the world actually works.  I realized tonight that probably my approach is wrong.  I kind of feel like I'm trying to understand how a human mind works by investigating the individual neurons firing.  There's a difference between the layers,  and the smallest layers give rise to complex and unexpected behavior on the aggregate scale.  Knowing how a neuron fires doesn't tell us much about why we experience love,  or loneliness.  Looking at the behavior of a single ant doesn't tell us really how an ant colony survives as a whole.  Studying how 1s and 0s are flipped in registers and memories doesn't explain the behavior of the computer,  our interaction with it,  or the human interactions that occur via the internet.  And I think the world is much the same way.  In my travels,  when I look beyond the "Travel Bubble,"  and see what is happening in the world around me (and not just on the tourist paths),  mostly what I see is people going about their lives,  just trying to make the best of what they've got. 

So maybe there are some super smart people in the world who have the intelligence and abilities to guide entire paths of human endeavor,  but I think they're rare, and I'm not entirely convinced that they're not surprised by human behavior on a regular basis as well.  Sometimes it takes works of fiction to bring to my attention the uniquenes with which many people operate.  I've been reading some William Gibson lately,  and he's pretty talented at pitting different cultures against each other,  or in many cases,  working together to produce interesting new results.  Much of his work is set in Japan,  which in his own words,  operates a few clicks into the future ahead of everyone else.  Sitting and watching regular Joe Buenos Aires resident ride past on his scooter during the rain and thinking about the culture of Japanese nerds (Otaku),  was for me today,  one of those moments of realizing that the world is bigger and stranger than I will ever imagine it to be. 

So I'm not sure if this is a success or a failure for me.  I have seen a tiny bit more of the world,  but I don't have a much greater sense of how it all works.  I guess what I really wanted was to be able to understand it well enough to begin being much more directive in writing my own role in it,  but I guess I think that will probably never really happen.  Like all the people walking in today's rain,  riding on their scooters with their girlfriends holding tightly to them,  standing in stores and taking passport photos,  waiting in lines for the Bolivian consulate to assist them,  all these people are just living their lives the best they can at the moment,  and maybe it's a pretty great thing to hope that I can do just the same thing.

Candid shot,  this one.  He was waiting for the confessional.  Thanks for all those who commented that you liked the people photos from yesterday.

This is a tomb,  of some exceedingly important dead guy,  whose name I do not know,  nor do I know why he's famous.  General someone or other.

Much of central Buenos Aires looks like this.  Some say that it looks more like Europe than Latin America,  and if I'd seen more of Europe,  or Latin America for that matter,  I'd probably be inclined to agree.


  1. Great post! (The pics as always are good, but the words are better). I've spent some time thinking about this as well. I've come to believe that there is a bit of a myth to this travel thing. :) Even with the off the beat adventure travel that you and I try to engage in. We are still experiencing such a tiny slice of the world we walk through. And as I pondered last week on a Facebook status (how odd does that sound), what is amazing and exciting for a tourist is just everyday normal for everyone that lives around you. And so even the adventure travelers are voyeurs from the outside in a way; but I feel we do try to connect deeper than your average "Fodors-travler" vacation person.

    For that matter even in our own "home town", we start out as tourists (everything is new and amazing) and we can end up as tired everyday plodders. Its one of the things I love about hiking and photography is the chance to reconnect with the wonder all around us no matter where we are.

    And finally as I drone on my last thought is that real experience of a place and culture can only come from living in a location. I am not degrading your experience at all, merely being grateful for the opportunity I've had to live in a foreign place where you can feel the rhythm of a place from residency.

    Lastly savor your travels because even with all our philosophical musings your world view has been expanded and your a richer and more diverse person for having seen all you've seen.

  2. Thanks Mark, again. :) You've consistently had thoughtful and interesting posts on my blog, and I appreciate it.

    There is probably too much in your post to respond to each piece of it, but all of it is excellent food for thought. There are some places that I've been that I could easily see myself living in for a year or more, others perhaps not as much. BA is slowly growing on me, Montevideo was great right out of the gate.

    I guess I think that I try to learn something from everything I do, and I'm glad I've taken this trip, even though there have been parts that have been stressful and lonely, and I've questioned why I decided to do it in the first place. I was suspicious that travel would help me "find myself" before I left, but I do think it can help put some things in perspective, and I think it's slowly and subtly doing that. I'm fond of saying that "life's lessons are learned by living life." meaning, you mostly learn the hard way. Sure, some things can be picked up at retreats, or adventure travel, but really, living and trying to make your way in the world is mostly how you learn to live and make your way in the world. :)

    It is entirely possible that at some point I may choose to go live somewhere else in the world for a while, I'm not sure. I feel like I'm getting older, and the older I get the more difficult that is. I feel like making this trip was kind of like pounding with a big hammer at the slowly closing limitations on me, and I made a pretty good size dent. How and where the next dents come are entirely a mystery to me at this point.

  3. Hi Rod-
    I can imagine you are getting weary from travel. Always being on the move, always being on the edge, always having to regain your sense of equalibrium... I hope you're feeling better soon!

    I appreciate your depth of thought, Rod. And I think it's a great question to wonder how the world works... it does sound like your questions are more about how people function within this world.

    Isen't it interesting to think about how our lives can be so similar and yet different at the same time, or how when we observe people in a given setting it allows us to think about how these people have complete lives outside of our own existance or knowledge? I don't know about you, but I find it very humbling, like thinking about our planet in relation to the gallaxy, how small we are. "Who are we that God should even think of us?"

    I love the idea of experiencing and being a part of a new culture and the growth we can experience with that challenge to ourselves.

    So how do you find meaning in all this? What is the use of your existance and the existance of ALL these marvelous peoples and people groups you've observed? How do you see God in all of this or in relation to your own self and search for significance?

    I just want to say I've really enjoyed your photography and transparent thought. I certainly pray for your safety and well-being as your continue your journey, both inner and outward!