Philip Marsden’s ‘Rising Ground’ and More

0605-BKS-Travel-master768Simon Winchester at The New York Times:

Once there were just nomads, their wanderings no more than necessary for survival. But then came the stockades their successors built and the fire-warmed ­settlements in which they huddled — and suddenly travel changed, becoming what for most would henceforth be a pursuit more elective than essential. There were many motives for it. Sheer curiosity — what’s beyond the fence? — came first. Then a need to trade, to inhabit, to conquer, to preach, to take part in a pilgrimage, to migrate and settle anew, to wage a war or to seek refuge. These and any of a thousand other proddings of the sharp stick would send travelers out on the road.

Before long, humankind had been whipped into a frenzy of wandering, one that has never let up. And nowadays, with technology and low cost combining to create a perfect storm of wanderlust, we see the results: the vast Lunar New Year crowds at a Chinese railway station, the lethal scrums at the hajj in Mecca, the endless security lines at Heathrow and Kennedy and Sheremetyevo, all vivid testimony to the unanticipated backwash of our pathological desire for ceaseless mobility. And yet just why, fretted Blaise Pascal back in the 17th century, when all of this seemed to get going, why the urge to engage in so much movement? Why all this transnational Brownian motion? Surely all of man’s ills must stem, the philosopher wrote, from his simple inability to remain quiet and alone, serenely in the comfort of his own home.

When confronted with this season’s tottering tower of new travel literature, I found it easy to sympathize with poor Pascal.

more here.