Trav­el­ing in the Mo­ment

There’s good news out there, if we know where to look for it

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT - — Dan Booth Edi­to­rial Di­rec­tor

Here’s a tid­bit of in­for­ma­tion to add to your store­house of trivia: In ad­di­tion to the thou­sand miles per hour the Earth is spin­ning on its axis, as­tronomers tell us we’re also mov­ing around the sun at about 66,000 miles per hour. Think­ing even big­ger, our en­tire so­lar sys­tem is cir­cling the cen­ter of the Milky Way gal­axy at a mind­bog­gling 483,000 mph. That means in the five or so min­utes it takes you to read this, we all will have trav­eled a cu­mu­la­tive 45,000 miles through space – and with­out leav­ing the com­fort of our arm­chairs.

You’d think at th­ese speeds, we’d at least get our hair a lit­tle mussed. But thanks to the force of gravity which keeps us, and our hair, rel­a­tively sta­tion­ary, the ac­tual rate of travel is im­per­cep­ti­ble. And be­cause the dis­tances in­volved are so vast, the num­bers be­come al­most mean­ing­less – even at th­ese enor­mous speeds, the en­tire of hu­man his­tory cov­ers but a tiny speck of one revo­lu­tion around the gal­axy.

Now there’s some­thing com­fort­ing in know­ing all this. The es­tab­lished rhythms of the uni­verse con­trast sharply with the va­garies of ev­ery­day head­lines. Fires and earth­quakes and mon­ster storms, wars and ru­mors of wars, seem to dom­i­nate our daily diet of news, and our con­scious­ness. So know­ing“the sun’ll come out to­mor­row”(as Lit­tle Or­phan An­nie sings) gives us the hope that – de­spite ev­i­dence to the con­trary – the next day will be bet­ter than the one just past.

And in­deed there is good news to be had. A quick Google search of‘things are get­ting bet­ter facts’re­turns about 100 mil­lion hits, the vast pre­pon­der­ance of which seem to be pos­i­tive. World hunger is down, in­fant mor­tal­ity rates are de­clin­ing, vi­o­lent crime rates are de­creas­ing. Of course, th­ese are sta­tis­tics, and we all know the old saw about lies and sta­tis­tics. And what about all those pesky pes­simistic head­lines?

“Head­lines are a poor guide to his­tory,”notes Steven Pinker, a Har­vard pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy and author of the im­pos­si­bly up­beat book, The Bet­ter An­gels of Our Na­ture. Quoted in The Guardian, Pinker says,“Peo­ple’s sense of dan­ger is warped by the avail­abil­ity of mem­o­rable ex­am­ples – which is why we are more afraid of get­ting eaten by a shark than fall­ing down the stairs, though the lat­ter is like­lier to kill us.” Now there’s a happy thought. The Earth has turned the corner in its an­nual track around the sun and is hurtling at 66,000 mph down the year’s home stretch. In the north­ern hemi­sphere, that brings har­vest time and, for most of us, some cel­e­bra­tion of thanks for bounty and bless­ing. Along with friends and fam­ily and myr­iad other good things, I am thank­ful for my trav­els – for the places and the peo­ple I meet along the way, and for the op­por­tu­nity to widen my vi­sion and ex­pand my world.

The sun’ll come out to­mor­row ev­ery­where in the world, and most of us will find ways to work to­gether to leave it a bet­ter place when the sun goes down, whether it’s in China or Europe or Africa or the good ol’US of A. That’s one truth travel re­veals; re­gard­less of where we wake up, we all wake up on the same planet. So we might at well make the most of it.

Which means even in the midst of all that’s go­ing on both near and far, I’m happy to get out of my arm­chair and get on an air­plane, on a train, in a car, and speed away to my next ex­pe­ri­ence of the world.

Be­cause some­times even half a mil­lion miles an hour is just not fast enough. BT

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