Friday, June 11, 2004



Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, offers three reasons for staying home, the Emersonian ("travel does not deliver what it promises"), the Pascalian ("it delivers us into temptation and vexation"), and the Vallicellan ("it knocks us out of our natural orbit, to return to which wastes time").

Vallicella thinks that Emerson borrowed his conception of the "indifference of places" from Seneca. I can recall a couple of passages where Seneca talks about this:
Epistulae Morales 28.2: You ask why this flight of yours doesn't help you? You're taking yourself with you as you flee. (quaeris, quare te fuga ista non adiuvet? tecum fugis.)
De Tranquillitate Animi 2.14-15: One journey is undertaken after another, and sights are traded for sights. As Lucretius [cf. 3.1060] says, "In this way each person is fleeing from himself." But what good does it do unless each person escapes from himself? He accompanies himself and is troublesome, a most unwelcome companion. And so we ought to know that our suffering isn't the fault of places, but of our selves. (aliud ex alio iter suscipitur et spectacula spectaculis mutantur. Vt ait Lucretius, "hoc se quisque modo semper fugit." sed quid prodest, si non effugit? sequitur se ipse et urget gravissimus comes. itaque scire debemus non locorum vitium est quo laboramus, sed nostrum.)
The passage from Lucretius (3.1053-1069, tr. H.A.J. Munro) is interesting in its own right:
They would not spend their life as we see them now for the most part do, not knowing any one of them what he means and wanting ever change of place as though he might lay his burden down. The man who is sick of home often issues forth from his large mansion, and as suddenly comes back to it, finding as he does that he is no better off abroad. He races to his country-house, driving his jennets in headlong haste, as if hurrying to bring help to a house on fire: he yawns the moment he has reached the door of his house, or sinks heavily into sleep, or even in haste goes back again to town. In this way each man flies from himself (but self from whom, as you may be sure is commonly the case, he cannot escape, clings to him in his own despite), hates too himself.
The locus classicus for this commonplace is Horace, Epistulae 1.11.27:
They who run across the sea get a change of sky but not of mind. (caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt.)

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