Undiscovered Country: a gentle manifesto
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
Once upon a time, I was lying in bed with a mind much too active to go to sleep and I decided to try and come up with a catchy name for this blog, something that encompassed that special blend of wanderlust, longing, and readiness for adventure that I get from poems like Baudelaire's L'invitation au voyage.
Truly, are there any more evocative lines than
<< Songe a la douceur/ D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble!/ Aimer à loisir/ Aimer et mourir/ Au pays qui te ressemble >> ?
which are, in Richard Wilbur's excellent English translation:
How sweet all things would seem
Were we in that kind land to live together,
And there love slow and long,
There love and die among
Those scenes that image you..."
So I started trying to think of a phrase to sum up this longing for "the other country" or "the true homeland" and another poetic phrase came to mind "that undiscovered country..." which I couldn't quite place. Was it from Shakespeare? Tennyson? Both?
In the morning when I looked it up my idea seemed to be a mash up between Hamlet:
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn/ No traveller returns
and Tennyson's "Ulysses":
I am a part of all that I have met;/ Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'/ Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades/ For ever and forever when I move.
Which both turned out to be slightly problematic, because Hamlet's undiscovered country was death and "Ulysses" seems chauvinistic and colonial (but I can't stop loving it; it's so quotable). I'll refrain from including the whole poem but here are a few other high-points that seem pertinent:
"...All times I have enjoy'd/ Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those/ That loved me, and alone"
"...I am become a name;/ For always roaming with a hungry heart/ Much have I seen and known; cities of men/ And manners, climates, councils, governments"
"And this gray spirit yearning in desire/ To follow knowledge like a sinking star,/ Beyond the utmost bound of human thought."
"There gloom the dark, broad seas"
"...the deep/ Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,/ 'T is not too late to seek a newer world."
The manifesto part
The Undiscovered Country is the unknown; it's everything that I have not yet discovered, a call to courageously step out my own comfortable places into something new with an attitude of curiosity and willingness to learn. It's also the idea of the the homeland that transcends time and geography, the "city with foundations, whose designer and builder is God" that it is humanity's work to approximate as best we can until it comes.
My goal through this project is to enjoy and share the good things I discover in life. I'm planning to write a lot about Tangier, and about Morocco in general, places where I both belong and don't belong, and I'd like to do this in a way that's not reductionistic — writing from a place of respect and humility rather than co-opting, oversimplifying, or other-izing people and their cultures.
What can you expect in this blog
Topics I hope to explore include but are not limited to:
Life in Morocco
Books, literature, and language
Topics related to traveling, expat life, and global citizenship
Unfortunately the only poets quoted in this post are white men. Help me diversify my sources! (I did include the quote from Hebrews at the end because not only do I love it but that at least is from a first-century Jewish author or team of authors, gender unknown.)