Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Man is by Nature a migratory animal"

From "My Foreign Travels," Douglass's December 15, 1887 speech to a crowd at the AME Metropolitan Church about his European tour.:

Man is by Nature a migratory animal. It does not appear that he was intended to swell forever in any one locality. He is a born traveler.
Assuming that he originated in one quarter of the globe only, which is the orthodox view of creation, I believe his present diffusion over the broad earth, shows that he must have early developed this migratory tendency: And when we consider the present passion for travel, the thousands who strain every nerve and muscle to raise the means to go abroad, the loss of time and money sustained, the comforts abandoned at home, and the discomforts borne patiently with abroad, the bad air breathed on ships, the dust, smoke and cinders swallowed on railways, the dangers to life and limb encountered -- we must admit that this migratory tendency, if original, has lost nothing of its intensity in the transmission.

The tendency to travel had taken Douglass's generation, with the expenses declining and the availability of Baedeker's travel guides removing some of the uncertainty. Cultural enlightenment and polish was within reach of parts of the middle class.

Some of us still yearn to move, to see, to partake of that western culture, of the waves of those who have gone before us as actors and tourists. So we shall! Not breathing bad air on ships, but crammed within airplanes (and in one of the middle seats in the middle sections). Not with dust, smoke and cinders, but other pollutants in new cities, different from those in our own cities. What danger to life and limb? I'd rather not contemplate, but the migratory intensity has been transmitted, if only temporarily.  I shall try to find some of the places that pulled him to Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Douglass pondered that Adam "might perhaps have remained at home, contented and happy with Mr.s Adam in the Garden of Eden until now. But they both seemed to have had a very strong desire for knowledge, and something of a roaming disposition." He traveled with his own Mrs. Adam, the second Mrs. Douglass, Helen. I too shall be traveling with my Mr. Adam, who shall remain nameless, as he wishes. I only mention him to point out that this is not a Douglass-centered visit but a vacation on which I hope to visit the same sites as Douglass. I shall have another person's itinerary to consider, as well. As much as he is willing to oblige my obsession, he is only human. Fortunately, like Douglass's Mrs. Adam, we two -- or we four -- have the same desire for knowledge of the same things.

Until we return!

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