Former New Yorker staff writer Hiss (Building Images: Seventy Years of Photography at Hedrich Blessing, 2000, etc.) explores the “wider, expanded, more inclusive awareness” of the mind in motion.
Dramatic evidence for humankind’s bipedalism is at least as old as the footprints discovered in the volcanic ash of Laetoli, Tanzania, and it extends in distance to Neil Armstrong’s still-preserved boot prints on the surface of the moon. However, we have become so habituated to this business of upright walking, to travel in general, that we have buried the capacity to connect with the extraordinary opportunity for insight that travel offers. Long occupied with matters of design, environment and regional planning, Hiss turns his attention to the possibilities of larger understanding inherent in traveling or, more precisely, what he calls Deep Travel, that “ground-shifting variant of ordinary waking consciousness.” Much more than simply moving from place to place or simply changing scenery, Deep Travel is a parallel journey that sharpens our perceptions, altering space—creating a larger “here”—and time—extending, making a larger “now.” As we immerse ourselves in Deep Travel, insights previously hidden or otherwise unavailable are revealed to the off-balance mind. To define and describe Deep Travel, the author begins by pondering selected moments of wonder drawn from his own peregrinations—sometimes a journey through a certifiable tourist vista, sometimes a seemingly nondescript trip to the corner mailbox. He follows up with similar passages drawn from a wide survey of travel literature, from Marco Polo to Pico Iyer. He invokes folk tales, poetry and fiction, and cites authorities from anthropology, biology, paleontology, psychology and neuroscience to flesh out this notion of Deep Travel and to demonstrate the mind-expanding possibilities that arise when our bodies are in motion. The very evanescence of his topic may frustrate some readers, but Hiss, an accomplished stylist, persuades us that maybe he’s on to something.
An intellectual walkabout filled with arresting, wide-ranging perceptions, quite unlike any other “travel” book.