Monday, August 14, 2017

Flying Homeward, a few lessons from seven weeks on the road – August 3

a foggy day in the French countryside, one of almost sixty great days on the road this summer.

We go home tomorrow, back to the USA and its Crazy King Donald. You ever wonder what it must have been like to have Caligula in charge?  Well, we are learning now.
On the road, people seem to feel sorry for the USA.
“We don’t like him.  He seems a little crazy,” confessed one man on a tram in Der Haag.
More than reacting to the crazy in the USA, I do enjoy thinking about a few of the lessons from our weeks on the road as the old empire crumbles in the us.
1)      Money does not equal democracy.  In Europe they’ve come describe the US as an oligarchy, not a democracy.  Unrestricted capitalism does not exist too well within a democracy.  Nothing wrong with people making money or creating jobs, but its ok to restrict markets, as they do here.  The world does not fall apart. Unrestricted capitalism is making us crazy.
2)      Lesson from Amsterdam, repression does not equal happiness or success.  They do not feel compelled to arrest people for taking drugs or having sex here.  Repression is down and expression is up.  Art is everywhere.  People smile. And prisons are emptying.  Its ok that their capitalist system does not extend into the prison industrial complex as ours does.  Sometimes a good society requires restrictions on markets.
3)      Art counts. We need it.  The Van Goghs and Dutch masters, the Italian Renaissance sculptors, the French impressionists, we need them all.  They make for a better world.  But we need more women in the museums, more female painters, etc.
4)      Lesson from Amsterdam – water counts.  Nourish it; embrace it; think about it; hire engineers to think about where to move it; integrate cities around it.  Create canals and irrigation everywhere.  The future of cities depends on this.
5)      Plant more trees like Salgato did.  It helps cool the planet and save the world.
6)      Walk and bike as much as possible.
7)      Build more trams.   From Budapest to Prague to Amsterdam, we jumped on.  They are fun, manageable and a great way to get people out of cars and throughout the city.
8)      Question leaders and prophets of all shapes and sizes, as Havel advised.
9)      Lesson from Budapest – spa and swim as much as possible. It makes for a happy way for everyone to live.
10)   Remember to add as much color and poetry to the art of everyday life as we can.
11)   As our friend Leslie reminded us after a lifetime of memories of Auschwitz, remember we should not hate each other.  Its just not worth it. If Leslie can marry a German, I can tolerate and love my neighbors.
12)   After walking through Auschwitz, its important to remember not to complain about the small stuff.
13)   Laugh and live.  
14) And try to learn from history. 
15) Read more novels.  Each section of the trip included novel, which helped explain and illumenate things.
In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano got me through the road from Paris, Balzac the Human Comedy through the French Countryside,
Imre Kertész' Fatelessness helped with Budapest and Krakow, Kafka through Praha, and Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud through Amsterdam. 
16) Lesson from France - local food counts.  Take time to enjoy it. 
17) But whats next?

The following are a few images Caroline Shepard took from our seven weeks on the road, from Paris to the French countryside, through Toulouse, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Amsterdam and Den Haag.

The view from our room in Praha, among other majestic views during our seven weeks on the road.

A cemetery for the ages in Praha.

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