As childish as it may seem, every now and then I wish I knew less about the world. I fantasize about traveling to far-off cities shrouded in mystery, climbing mountains to hidden temples, and crossing oceans filled with sea monsters and black ships.
This imagined nostalgia was again awaked yesterday as I caught the late-night show of the newest Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End. Despite being a major Hollywood summer blockbuster intended mostly for good entertainment, the film had its moments of profundity; I saw subtle references to Guantanamo Bay, and statements about globalisation.
Perhaps the most powerful quote was a line from Jack Sparrow (aka Johnny Depp) that went: “The world isn’t getting smaller, there’s just less in it…”
I feel this can be understood in a number of ways – perhaps he means there’s simply less mystery, or that Western expansion has made things more homogenous (the film deals quite a bit with the Dutch East India Company).
Either way, we now live in a world that is almost entirely explained; all the bubbles have been filled, there are no black spots on the map. Surely we are less ignorant and fearful than generations before, but there is a certain sentimental tug at the idea of exploring the uncharted – though this prospect is hardly possible in a time of GPS, Internet and guidebooks.
But as travelers, perhaps this is what we seek: to awaken the mystery in the world, to venture into the black spots in our personal maps. We seek out the stories of other cultures, and in this process we see the world in its true size and grandure.
When we throw out our assumptions – our prior knowledge and ideas – the mythic world awakens within ourselves. Perhaps it isn’t that the world is getting smaller, but that we just need to look harder to see all that’s out there.