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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, January 13, 2005
    Poetry in motion
     
    The Art of Travel is immensely enjoyable. And Alain de Botton is winning me around to his point of view on the poetry of those places of isolation (service stations, hotels, airport lounges, train carriages) which Edward Hopper depicts so sensitively and I blogged about here.

    There's something in de Botton's memorable phrase, "Journeys are the midwives of thought." Something related to the constraints which home puts on you - about needing to get out somewhere different to begin to be able to think through what's going on in life. Something which places value on movement, and on places of intersection where we are anonymous but in a deep way share affinity with the others around us also travelling, also freed from the crushingly familiar to begin to open up like flowers, on their own, in their minds and hearts.

    So to de Botton it's satisfying to sit in a motorway services cafe glancing around at the other solitary figures there and enjoying a fellow-feeling of sanctuary and release.

    It's often said that our society's lust for motion is a kind of sickness. Alain de Botton challenges that. There's comfort in his perspective for the sort of people who "don't do quiet. / stillness," as Martin Wroe put it in When you haven't got a prayer. And for the sort of people who perhaps counter-culturally, value their own company.

    And it explains something I find in me - the need to travel to begin to unwind. Something I've felt a few times in this funeral-heavy week where, with Robbie Williams' majestic and supremely moving Angels still ringing in my ears I've found myself taking my leave from the crem and just driving for a while; with heavy heart, just driving.