Leviticus

You may question my use of Biblical titles for the first five posts on this site – what I have called my personal Pentateuch. Let me say that I am not in any way trying to disrespect or ridicule anyone’s system of belief. At first, I was simply searching for a way to organize my thoughts on the beginning of my decade-long adventure abroad. Obviously genesis, the origin, seemed a good title for the start, and exodus, meaning ‘going out’, was a no-brainer for a post about my actually packing up and leaving. It seems natural that I should carry on with the motif with which I have begun.

I’m reminded of a young minister I once worked with who had three sons and found his wife was expecting a fourth. His first three sons were named Matthew, Mark, and Luke. When the newborn arrived, he christened him ‘Kyle’. I have not seen him in many years, but I pray that God’s punishment has not been overly severe.

While I can’t compare my life to the events that occurred in the Old Testament – perhaps the greatest saga of antiquity – my travels are indeed the greatest events that have happened to me, and as such, deserve a grand introduction. So I hope you’ll forgive my blatant thievery of the titles of five of the oldest documents known to man.

However, deciding to go this way has left me in a dilemma; what can I write in a travel blog that has anything to do with Leviticus? Well, on the surface, it isn’t as difficult as it might appear. Because the Levites were the priestly class of Israel, most of the book is filled with obscure and very detailed rules for the clergy. So, I could easily write a post about the ‘rules of the road’, or some listicle that would produce much-needed search hits for my newborn blog, such as ‘10 Reasons to Travel Now’ or something similar.

The problem with that is – there really aren’t any rules to follow if you want to start a similar adventure, at least none that would be interesting to write about. If you want to read about not drinking the water or being careful with your credit cards, well, that’s what Fodor’s is for. Would I advise you to blow off your last year of school and spend your tuition money on the trip of a lifetime, like I did? Yeah, probably. But I certainly wouldn’t call it a rule. No – I don’t like the idea of travel being all about a set of rules – too much of life is that way already. I’d rather just tell you what I did, and let you decide if the same approach would work for you.

There is, however, an aspect of Leviticus that describes what travel is all about – and if you’re not careful, the idea will eat away at your mind and consume you. The Hebrew name for the third book of the Pentateuch is called Wayikra, which is often translated ‘and He called’. When I look at all those chapters about how and when to wash up, what and what not to eat, and such, to me it’s just a bunch of rules. But to the Levites, it was a calling, something that gave meaning to their lives. Sure there were things you should do and others you couldn’t, but that was missing the point – you did them because you were called to do them, born to do them.

While Americans are among the most productive workers in the world, we receive far fewer vacation days than employees in any other developed country – and many undeveloped ones. Many of us get two weeks, one of which we break up, a day here and there, since we can’t afford to use sick days or personal days. That leaves only one week to perhaps travel to a distant locale – as distant as you can get when you have to return five or six days later. So, there’s not really any time for exploring, or even letting the mind wander. We’ve got to make every single moment count, get every possible bang for our buck in that one week. That’s why, if you read anything produced by the American travel industry, you might think travel is about which hotel has the best amenities, or which airline serves the best wine, or which cruise ship has the best on-board entertainment. With only a few days to savor, you don’t want any detail to be a disappointment. You’d better mind the rules.

But you end your week not anywhere near ready to return to the grind. You look back of all the activities you thought you’d try, the places you might get a chance to check out, and find you didn’t get to do half of what you wanted. You saw an interesting place, but didn’t have time to stop, an intriguing path you might have ventured down, but needed to get back in time to make your dinner reservations. And so that last day, with your bags packed in the car and twenty minutes left before you have to check out, you stand on the balcony and look out across the view, perhaps the mountains or the sea, maybe have a smoke. You look out across the waves and wonder – what’s beyond? There’s an ache in your heart because you know you probably won’t ever get the chance to find out.

You hear the calling: What if you didn’t go back? What if you got in your car and went the opposite direction from home, and just kept driving down the beach until you found a funky little spot no one had ever heard of, and crashed there for a few more days? And then, a few days later, you did the same thing, and just kept doing that until you were so far from home you might never get back?

But you don’t – not because you don’t want to, but because you think you can’t. There are bills to be paid, a job waiting – there are rules by golly, and no one got ahead by breaking them.

If this blog is about anything, it is about answering that call. It’s not about rules, or even breaking them. It’s about meaning – meaning that cannot be found when you’re too busy getting ahead.

Enjoy my writing? Check out my other blog – americansecularist.com – for my views on American politics, religion, and society.

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