I have moved on to Odense tonight and Aarhus for the next two before going back to Copenhagen for my last night. Fortunately, I’m losing some of my zest for traveling or I’d be irritated at what the agent put together for my trip since leaving Norway. And even more so at myself for paying too little attention before I signed-on and paid-up. There’s been too little focus on getting out into Nature and too much on time in cities, with oddities thrown in like these brief stops in places that don’t have much to offer and too little time for what they do. I’ve made the best of my city time but would have shrunk it by at least a third and insisted on getting me out to smaller towns in appealing natural areas. But I won’t complain. I still feel that as a whole it has been profoundly satisfying and enlightening about multiple countries. The Faroes, the Ring Road around Iceland, and the trip up the west coast of Norway…these three elements alone gave me all that I could want. At this point I’m just coasting to the end. Today I went to another cathedral (I’m getting hooked on these for their architecture, history, and contemplative ambiance) and found that I’d arrived just a few minutes before a chamber group was to perform in the nave, so I sat down and listened. Tomorrow I’ll walk back over to the railroad station to be ready for the trip to Aarhus.
I’ve thought more about my encounter with the fellow in Malmo who rescued me from being lost, and also about how many times on this trip I have relied on approaching people on the street asking directions. Ordinarily I’m not in this position and by nature I usually prefer to find my own way. I also realize, if I had a handheld device and had mastered it (two improbabilities for the price of one!) I could have looked up where I was and where I wanted to be and found a route without trouble. But being over here in these new to me countries and frequently at a navigational loss and lacking the device, I’ve become a gatherer of other people’s directions. One observation is how poorly most people either know their communities or how to give directions to locations within them. The more important one, though, is that almost everyone tries and is friendly and accommodating, even lone women at night. And I realize that if I had the mastered device in hand, I’d have missed these encounters and this realization of comity. I’d not have known how far a stranger like the car dealer would go to help a stranger in need. So, my interpersonal world expanded as did my recognition that despite what I believe modern social and economic systems do to human sensibilities, there remain threads of kindness, ethics, and willingness to be bothered spread widely, at least on my travels. I don’t know how influential it is that I’m obviously an aging foreigner depending on foreigners who speak English for help—How many Americans would have responded to me with the same desire to help? But whatever the answer, I think this demonstrates one more loss that the convenience of these devices extracts from human relationships. I already hypothesize that consciousness and social relationships suffer for the absorption of owners in their devices. (I see people not infrequently walking sidewalks staring into their device and I want to stop them and ask what at that moment it is that has their attention. Because I can’t help wondering what could be so entrancing to so many.) There is compulsion in much of this, for sure, and social expectation, not to mention that increasingly those of us without them are at a disadvantage in all those situations where apps and QR Codes substitute for the paper versions of history and, for me, the present. The point of my thinking is the costs to those who have thrown in with these devices and I intend to stay aware and observant to see what else I can discern.