On Bruce Chatwin

I just finished reading a fantastic BOOK, by my favorite travel writer, a touch of narcissism here, Bruce Chatwin.  Songlines is about the Australian Aborigines dreaming tracks and contains a lot of his theories on the nature of human restlessness and his lifelong obsession with the nomadic way of living.

From his notebook:

"Psychiatrists, politicians, tyrants are forever assuring us that the wandering life is an aberrant form of behavior; a neurosis; a form of unfulfilled sexual longing; a sickness which, in the interests of civilization, must be suppressed.     Nazi propagandists claimed that gipsies and Jews, peoples with wandering in their genes - could find no place in a stable Reich.   Yet in the east, they still preserve the once universal concept: that wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe"

“As a general rule of biology, migratory species are less 'aggressive' than sedentary ones.  There is one obvious reason why this should be so. The migration itself, like the pilgrimage, is the hard journey: a 'leveller' on which the 'fit' survive and stragglers fall by the wayside. The journey thus pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The 'dictators' of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the 'gentlemen of the road'.”

"Our nature lies in movement, complete calm is death"  

"The founders of monastic rule were forever devising techniques for quelling wanderlust in their novices. 'A monk out of his cell is like a fish out of water' yet Christ and the apostles walked their journeys through the hills of Palestine" 

"Why must a man a man with sufficient to live on feel drawn to divert himself on long sea voyages. To dwell in another town? To go off in search of a peppercorn? Or to go off to war and break skulls?"

“If this were so; if the desert were 'home'; if our instincts were forged in the desert; to survive the rigours of the desert - then it is easier to understand why greener pastures pall on us; why possessions exhaust us, and why Pascal's imaginary man found his comfortable lodgings a prison.”

Nik Dean waiting out the ferry to South America in Panama  

Nik Dean waiting out the ferry to South America in Panama  

"Gypsies see themselves as hunters. The world is their hunting ground."

"Go west young man! Go west! Away from the cities and the government camps. Away from glue, hash, smack, gaol. Out! Back to the desert from which grandfather was hounded”

“The definition of man’s own country was the place in which I do not have to ask. Yet to feel at home in that country depended on being able to leave it"

"A journey is a fragment of Hell"

Although Chatwin has a lot of ideas, I feel like his theories remain inconclusive. Unable to tie together his ideals on nomadism and restlessness, he died before he was 50.  Happy? Who knows.  Definitely a wealth of stories and wisdom. Somewhat of a wanderers manifesto, this book is effective in the way that it will inspire you to quit your job, sell your material objects, and hit the road.  Walk on!