Monday, May 23, 2005

Reading the "Book"

My earlier post on the Commencement speech at Old Dominion University from John McCaslin contained an interesting piece of wisdom he got from his mother:
"The World is a book and he who does not travel the World reads only one page."
This weekend, that thought rolled around in the realm of the chaotic synaptic activity, and on the way to work this morning, something coagulated. I present it as advise to those military menbmers who now travel the World, especially you sailors because I see something interesting in my own reading of the World. Short of making it from Singapore to Naha, Okinawa on the surface of the sea, on various journies, have made the rest of that cricumnavigation of the globe. As a result, I have seen many places, but here's my self acknowledged fault: I read "it" (the World) from a technical standpoint. My reading style is almost exclusively technical or historical in nature. Many years ago, when I picked up the reading habits I have retained, I read the "Dune" series, the Tolkien Trilogy, and possibly a few other novels/science fiction, but precious little of those types of writing. Today, it's the same, and in my adult life, I'd venture to say I have read a handful of novels, and about the only ones I can remember are "Fight of the Old Dog" by Dale Brown (sucked technically, IMO), "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger" by Tom Clancy. I tried "Patriot Games" and "The Sum of All Fears" and put them down early in the text. I had opportunities galore to look at the World from a technical standpoint, and did. I never read it like a good thriller, or science fiction, or even a historical novel. I didn't go on tours to Rome and Pompei, even when we were in Naples, Italy all the time. I'd randomly leave the ship to venture out for a good meal and to stretch my legs, or to attend "mandatory fun," as we called those events put on by the Embassy where we visited. Trot the nice sailors and officers out in their whites.....Free food, and yes, interesting people, but I never looked forward to that. On my last sea tour, while depolyed to the Persian Gulf, we pulled into Dubai for Christmas. I scanned the tour list I had posted in the Plan of the Day for the crew, and as we got close to pulling in, I asked the tours officer to sign me up for the day trip to ski on the sand dunes (set up years before when two French guys saw the dunes, had a "what if" moment, got some snow skis on and tried it. The developed snad skis, and had a nice concession going out in the desert near some really tall dunes. Having snow skied a few times, I figured that would be a wonderful story to tell years later. The tour was full for all the days I would be free. There was a second tour that caught my eye, an overnight trip to the open desert on Christmas Eve. That certainly had adventure, in a quiet way. Guess what...all full. Back to "technical" reading. That was my last sea duty, where, despite the hi tempo, at least there would be chances to look around occassionally. In retrospect, I didn't take the opportunity to wander among the local population much, to see the world they lived in daily. I did, close to the port, but not in other parts of their countries. I missed a lot of opportunity. I didn't miss everything, but it was a clinical look I came home with. My advice: Take some time and, as the cliche goes, smell the roses. If you have a spouse that can come to where you are, or some interesting place near for R&R, bring them and the both of you go exploring. Read as many "styles" of writing the book of the World has to offer, so you don't regret it many years later.

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