This trip was a Christmas present. Alicia asked for it in some not so subtle ways and I obliged because in years past I’d manage to buy things she never used. Who doesn’t want a karaoke machine or an electronic keyboard, right?
The trip was planned for six months. We did our research, or rather, Alicia did hers and I watched. We wanted to see the obvious: Stonehenge, The Louvre, The Vatican, archaeological sites in Greece, The Colosseum, and whatever else we could squeeze in.
During a trip to Delphi we encountered something that would touch us far more than these national treasures. In a little mountain town we saw a traditional Greek funeral procession which was proceeding by foot down the road. The mourners followed about eight men in uniform. We pulled to the side of the road and killed the engine and could do nothing but silently observe with empathy. We would learn the man died at 48 leaving behind a wife and children. His business had been in trouble. His father had also died at 48.
While in Rome at the Colosseum we were initially frustrated to learn that of all days, the day we picked to visit, the site would be closed to visitors because of a labor strike. We took a short tour around the exterior and heard some history. The tour guide explained that the strike was a result of the incredibly high tax rate, effectively 55%, that the Italian workers paid. We walked down the road after the tour and watched the marching workers from a restaurant as we ate. The march was peaceful but intense.
These are things we could not have planned in advance. To me, though, they were life changing experiences. They were the real activities and emotions of the real citizens of the countries we visited. They’ll stick with me forever.
In this way reading is like travelling. The things that impact you along the way might not be the things you set out to see. Everyone knows the story of Holden Caufield in a nutshell, but do you get a chance to break down and feel what it’s like to be him by reading the notes or Wikipedia entry?
Engage in active reading and you’ll find the unexpected. Maybe you’ll even see something no one else has seen before because you will have read through the lens of your own unique experience. Maybe what you see will change your life.