The Price of Beauty
Traveling might be the enterprise that has the most costs associated with it, second to only buying a house. So says the twenty-one year old who has just travelled internationally for the first time in his life and never bought a house (In fairness, my mom is a real estate agent, so I have some vicarious experience). However, I’m not talking about just financial costs—though airplane tickets, college program costs, and everything in touristy Cambridge is pretty damn pricey. Still, anybody could really shlep through Europe with nothing but a backpack and the clothes on their back and be able to survive from hostel to hostel. But, what does a traveller give up in, to use an economic term, opportunity costs? That is to say, what could a traveller be doing or experiencing instead of what he or she or ze is doing currently?
The biggest cost that sticks out to me is the cost of not being home, of losing more of the limited time I have with my mom, dad, sister, dogs, and friends. Somebody actually texted me yesterday (it’s fine I can receive unlimited, thanks $85 Verizon plan that Mom thought I should have). It was a weird moment when I had to respond “Can’t. In England lol.” It was really cool that I could finally use that reason for the first time ever, but that brief exchange made me think of all the little things about home that are thousands of miles away:
having two dogs bark loudly and excitedly when they hear the door you just opened; having the smaller dog jump at you and try to bite your fingers while the bigger dog wags her tail, waiting for me to pet her; the absurd abundance of good food in the fridge (the food’s not bad over here, but the supply is expensive and portioned smaller compared to America); your mom smiling, giving you a hug, and asking how your day was, even when you know she carries a mountain of stress from dealing with insane, irrational, self-centered people all day (buying a house can do crazy things to people); your dad yelling “JUNIOR” as he lies on the couch, legs swinging (restless leg syndrome, back it at again), grinning at his son that carries his inheritance: his appearance, stubbornness, and sweatiness (yet not the restless leg syndrome, oddly enough); your sister soft smiling at her brother who’s grown from a small, quiet, anxious weirdo to a big, slightly less quiet, slightly less anxious weirdo, who at least embraces it now;
your friends, the beers you don’t finish, the lighted pool in the backyard that looks like a fairy’s pond under the full moon draped on the night’s velvety sky, the wind on your face as you sit alone on the leather seat in your Ford Edge (this post brought to you by Ford) listening and shouting freely to the profane rap songs you love (even if you pass a minivan full of children, sorry), the aroma of Tennessee Honeysuckle in the summer,
the distant clouded mountains you’ve always seen to let you know you stand at home.
With any journey, the costs of leaving also go hand in hand with the wholesale jerseys benefits of adventuring. Those benefits (to me) are widened perspective, dope shirts, and all the mind-blowing experiences, people, and stories you meet.
Today, we talked about Edmund Burke, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Uvedale Price as they related to Beauty and the Sublime. Beauty, as vaguely defined by Burke, is a “social quality for where women and men, and not only they, but when other animals give us a sense of joy and pleasure in beholding them…they inspire us with sentiments of tenderness and affection towards their persons.” (On the Sublime and Beautiful, 66) Their conception of beauty relied on the pleasure felt by the senses, which then relaxed or even “melted” us to tap into to profound emotional pleasure. On the opposite end, Burke thought of the sublime as a profound experience of awe and terror rooted in extreme pain or shock, giving us a peek into the infinite power of Nature and Time. The sublime was considered to be stronger because Burke considered pain “much more powerful than…pleasure” (Burke 59, #MLA).
Now, I don’t know if I agree with some of that. For me, pain and pleasure, sublimity and beauty, awe and love aren’t easy to distinguish. They all blend into each other, making a tangled knot globe with untraceable, lost cords of rope. Even the home I just reminisced over has pain, stress, dog crap, fear, regret, and plenty of stupid people (not in my house; just throughout Knoxville, Tennessee, America, and the world in general). But, I still love home. And, love is not complacent. It is active and definitely walks down Pain’s neighborhood from time to time. I don’t think there are very many universal definitions to these big abstract “things” like beauty and awe (except for the open ocean and probably space, that produces a universal “holy shit”). Everybody has a different experience that he or she or ze uses as a definition in order to fill these grand conceptions with meaning. And in that way, there is beauty, pain, awe, history, and love everywhere. The only prerequisite, though, is to have the ability to step out of one’s own perspective and see all the different ways the light bounces off everything for everybody. Enhancing that mirroring ability is worth leaving home for a bit and returning with a new appreciation and view of the mist and the mountains. Plus, the pubs are fantastic.