. . .I Learn by Going Where I Have to Go. . .

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling.  What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
And learn by going where I have to go.

from "The Waking"  by Theodore Roethke

        These lines have touched me recently as I contemplate the sense of adventure and awe of traveling.
        I find I need to think carefully about the words "going where I have to go."  It may not be the "have" of obligation, but rather the "have" of opportunity. Indeed only when I see it as the "have" of opportunity does it make any real meaning for me.  Without waxing too etherial, isn't every journey an opportunity, and every opportunity a journey?  I have been given three weeks in Japan as a guest of the Japanese government so that I might study their culture and the way they teach, and then bring back to my own students, some new understanding of the world.  "We think by feeling, what is there to know?"

        In his powerful book The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineou quotes from Matsuo Basho, a noted Japanese poet of the seventeenth century:  "The passing days and months are eternal travelers in time, the years that come and go are travelers too. Life itself is a journey . . ."

This is a print of the Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi, whose 9th century pilgrimage brought Buddhism to Japan and was the origin of the 88 temples of Shikoku.  Shikoku is the very island where I will be staying!  The city of Niihama is in the prefecture of Ehime which is one of the four prefectures on Shikoku. People go on pilgrimages (shades of Geoffrey Chaucer) to all 88 and it makes their wishes come true.

Consider this Haiku poem by Matsuo Basho

    A Haiku Journey

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old
seek what they sought."

I think there are implications here for me as I ponder how to approach this journey.

Some additional inspiring quotes from eminent travelers for the imminent traveler

"But I also believe in pilgrimage as a powerful metaphor for any journey . . .  With a deepening of focus, keen preparation, attention to the path below our feet, and respect for the destination at hand, it is possible to transform even the most ordinary trip into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage."  Phil Cousineau

 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness."  Mark Twain

"What is sacred to us, is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated transforms us utterly."  Phil Cousineau

"If you come to a fork in the road . . . take it."  Yogi Berra

To Mrs. Wheeler's Home Page                            To Learning in Japan Page