Soul Tracker: Chapter 2: Strangers Collide (Heart of the Jaguar)

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If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart. No yesterdays on the road. A journey into America. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. Sometimes these steps have felt painful, difficult, but led me to greater happiness and opportunities. What a Ride! One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles. There is always one more track to follow, one more mirage to explore. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.

It is the traveler only who is foreign. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. The only thing to do was go.

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Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. But no matter, the road is life. Real adventure — self-determined, self-motivated, often risky — forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind — and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both.

This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.

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Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky — all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

Everything else is secondary. The great affair is to move. Disoriented, even frightened, I feel alive, awake in ways I never am at home. Just for a few days!

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So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite, and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? I wished I was on it. You have to go out and grab the world by the horns. Rope it before it ties you down and decides for you. Like breathing. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.

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I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Each moment is all we need, not more. The more you do it, the more you find a way to keep doing it. A life-changing journey. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we all have. See the world. I want to have lived the width of it as well. Somerset Maugham. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. Cool, unlying life will rush in.

Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art. How much of ourselves are we willing to give up for it?

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Climb that goddamn mountain. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. I can conquer anything. Every journey is spiritual. You can bring back the memories but they only bring tears to your eyes. So travel often and live life with open eyes and an open heart.

There are no wrong turns. Life itself is a travel that has to be done by foot. Self-discovery is the secret ingredient. I was a physics student in a department orbiting around Enrico Fermi; I discov- ered what true mathematical elegance is from Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar; I was given the chance to talk chemistry with Harold Urey; over summers I was apprenticed in biology to H. Muller at Indiana University; and I learned planetary astronomy from its only full-time practitioner at the time, G.

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It was from Kuiper that I first got a feeling for what is called a back-of-the-envelope calculation: a possible explanation to a problem occurs to you, you pull out an old envelope, appeal to your knowledge of fundamental physics, scribble a few approxi- mate equations on the envelope, substitute in likely numerical 4 My Teachers values, and see if your answer comes anywhere near explaining your problem. If not, you look for a different explanation.

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  6. It cut through nonsense like a knife through butter. At the University of Chicago 1 also was lucky enough to go through a general education programme devised by Robert M. Hutchins, where science was presented as an integral part of the gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge. It was considered unthinkable for an aspiring physicist not to know Plato, Aristotle, Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski and Freud - among many others. In an introductory science class, Ptolemy's view that the Sun revolved around the Earth was presented so compellingly that some students found themselves re-evaluating their commit- ment to Copernicus.

    The status of the teachers in the Hutchins curriculum had almost nothing to do with their research; per- versely - unlike the American university standard of today - teachers were valued for their teaching, their ability to inform and inspire the next generation. In this heady atmosphere, 1 was able to fill in some of the many gaps in my education. Much that had been deeply mysterious, and not just in science, became clearer.

    I also witnessed at first hand the joy felt by those whose privilege it is to uncover a little about how the Universe works.


    I've always been grateful to my mentors of the s, and tried to make sure that each of them knew my appreciation. But as 1 look back, it seems clear to me that I learned the most essential things not from my school teachers, nor even from my university professors, but from my parents, who knew nothing at all about science, in that single far-off year of Albert Einstein A s 1 got off the plane, he was waiting for me, holding up a scrap of cardboard with my name scribbled on it.

    The organizers had kindly sent a driver.

    No, I didn't mind. Was he pulling my leg? Finally, it dawned on me. He paused and then smiled. That's my problem. Buckley, but he did bear the name of a contentious and well-known TV interviewer, for which he doubtless took a lot of good-natured ribbing. As we settled into the car for the long drive, the windshield 6 The Most Precious Thing wipers rhythmically thwacking, he told me he was glad 1 was 'that scientist guy' - he had so many questions to ask about science.