How reassuring! How desperate!


I boarded a flight at Kennedy Airport in New York. There were HSBC ads in the jet bridge. I flew for 24 hours to the bottom of the world. There were HSBC ads in the jet bridge…

I left a country, the United States, in the midst of an election campaign. I arrived in a country, Australia, in the midst of an election campaign…

I had a cappuccino before I left. There was a cute heart shape traced in the foam. Next to the Sydney Opera House, familiar from photographs, I had a cappuccino. There was a cute heart shape traced in the foam…

From my window in Brooklyn Heights I watch joggers at water’s edge, some with dogs or infants in strollers…From my Sydney hotel window I gaze at an urban landscape similarly transformed. I watch joggers at water’s edge. They wear the same gear. They use the same devices. They are into wellness in the same way.

I lose myself in the silvery play of moonlight on water. Where on earth am I? I have traveled a long way through time zones over a vast ocean to find myself in the same place. My Twitter feed looks the same. My Facebook friends have not changed. My little universe with all its little excitements and aggravations is still at my fingertips. My bills are maddeningly accessible. Through an immense displacement nothing has been left behind. Even in another hemisphere I contemplate my life from the same angle. People argue about climate change and same-sex marriage and jobs and immigration, as if the world is now a place where everyone discusses the same thing…

In his great poem “The City,” C.P. Cavafy wrote that: “As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner, you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.” We never escape our own skins, nor our lives lived to this point, however far we go in search of escape. But today’s trap, fashioned through technology, is of a different nature. The homogenization of experience is also an insidious invitation to conform.

Experience, like journalism, withers without immersion in place. At some level, the truly lived moment involves the ability to get lost — lost in a conversation, or in the back alleys or Naples, or in silence, or in the scents and inflections of a new city. There is no greater thrill than being lost in this way because self is left behind, a form of liberation.

Yet a world is taking form that wants you never to be lost, never to feel displaced, never to be unanchored, never to be unable to photograph yourself, never to stand in awe before mystery, never to exit your safety zone (or only in managed fashion), never to leave your life behind: a world where you travel for 24 hours to your point of departure.

How reassuring! How desperate!…

So I am somewhere else after all. Surely I am. I wake at night, sleep by day, and find myself altogether lost in translation.

~ Roger Cohen, excerpts from Australia or Anywhere

Photo: Hiro Harumatsumoto via


  1. Yes…yes…I nod my head throughout. We can automate ourselves, create avatars out of our fantasies, and reassure ourselves by taking selfies…and move farther and farther away from understanding who we are..

    Liked by 5 people

  2. What a thoughtful post. How true, how desperate. I need to retreat into the forest for my sustenance.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Our middle daughter has a saying, “It’s the same, but different.” Seems a fitting description. I am also reminded of eating a Big Mac in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Two all-beef patties, . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lost in translation. What a great phrase. I’ve heard it before and never really understood it. Not sure I do now – but it seems that it may just apply to me now. I wonder if “I” am lost in translation – or if we all are, for that matter… as long as we are moving, evolving, living? Great contemplative post, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. freddiegeorgia says:

    I like traveling to places where the air smells different. You can’t homogenize the flavors in the air of some cultures. At times I have wanted to bottle the pungent air to bring home for mental transport.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. How wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A reminder to cherish our differences and all the remaining different uncivilized cultures.
    There’s a TED talk about that.
    This story hit me hard

    Liked by 1 person

  8. distressingly true….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. bryher1 says:

    An excellent essay for our times.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh I think this calls fora trip to some of the remotest places in Ireland, or even not so remote

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You can still have a reasonably “normal” life if you’re in a semi-rural place. It’s the city environment, over-populated areas, that make life so extremely “input-oriented.”

    Liked by 2 people

  12. “The homogenization of experience is also an insidious invitation to conform.”
    Time to get away and be ourselves… so long as we can remember what that might be like.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Don’t they say the more things change the more they stay the same? I would think people are people no matter where they stand on this planet of ours.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “Australians speak a different language” loool
    Enjoyed the full essay.
    Thinking of writing to him to tell him where to go and not feel this way, with or without technology 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • And, so why don’t you let the rest of us in on the secret?

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a lot of truth to what he said.
        But the world still has plenty of spots that’ll reawaken all of your senses, all 15 of them!!!
        No secrets there.
        I was in Chicago all day, in the city.
        But, between 3 different neighborhoods, for work.
        Three different worlds.
        Then I turned into my street, off of Little India, and was thinking to myself “the Silk route”
        It’s complicated and BEAUTIFUL.
        Miracle, All of it!

        Liked by 2 people

  15. Chicago has a little India?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. God how depressingly true. Even in Tokyo.. until, on the outskirts, I turned a corner and looked through a gap in a hedge. On the inside was a wonderful monastery-looking building with raked gravel and exquisite planting.. I slipped through the gap and stole some moments of blissful serenity – for as long as my conscience allowed.. I treasure the moment, and the reassurance that beyond the language, all was not, after all, the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes…this is familiar and the world is small. But to tell the truth, I’d rather watch an election campaign somewhere else… Loved the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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