Shifting baselines (Ø2)

When speaking of revisiting childhood experience of majestic Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, my father once gave me advice very similar to this:

“It is part of wisdom never to revisit a wilderness, for the more golden the lily, the more certain that someone has gilded it. To return not only spoils a trip, but tarnishes a memory. It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright.”

– Aldo Leopold (1949), A Sand County Almanac.

2 Responses to “Shifting baselines (Ø2)”

  1. Farah says:

    I remember believing exactly this at one point in my life. Later, however, I came to the conclusion that by never returning, I was refusing the possibility of a deeper wisdom, an equally precious lesson. And why should a memory be tarnished? Can there not be some truth to it as you experienced it the first time, even if you distinguish another truth later? And how can the impact of a first experience lose its significance? It has shaped your encounters with the world from that point on. Regardless of what you see or learn the second time around, it cannot remove the influence that has already taken place. It can never be truly negated by a second ‘trip’. To never return (if taken as a general guideline in one’s life) is to fear, is to give in to fear, is to perpetuate a kind of cowardice.

    (clearly I’m not defining Wilderness as an exclusively physical location…)

    Thanks for the quote

  2. Cheryl E. Fitzgerald says:

    I agree with the above comment, with the perspective of the commenter.

    Perhaps, whether or not one should return is a matter to be decided by the person himself, in the moment – to be guided by the feeling in that moment.

    Even if it is true that, “It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright,” this need not lead to a tarnishing of the memory. A revisiting may confirm the brightness of the adventure, as it is remembered, thereby confirming whatever is special and precious and meaningful about it. And perhaps in that, one can find a deeper wisdom, learn a deeper truth. But, if the memory is tarnish, so what? Might that, too, not reveal a deeper truth, remove some illusion from thine eyes? Of course, it may lead to disappointment and pain, but these are not inherently to be avoided. For, they are also necessary parts of living, of learning, of becoming wise. And I am pretty sure you know that.

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