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Borrowed Spaces

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Only tourists go up the Statue of Liberty.


I lived in New York for ten years and always meant to. She was right there. But I never got around to it. On the other hand, when I was in Moscow for ten days I went more places and did more things than my friends who had lived there for decades.


There’s something about knowing that we are just passing through that makes us pay more attention to where we are and notice everything more keenly. If we could remember that this is true of life in general, and that we are just passing through on a broader scale, and nobody knows when our short journeys will end, how would we tune in more acutely to our surroundings?


Knowing that we only have something for now, not for always, makes us love it better, treat it more kindly, care less about its disagreeable aspects. Knowing that we are only somewhere temporarily makes us define ourselves less by our surroundings. Perfection is less important if we aren't stuck with a place, and it's less important if it's a reflection of self. Disliking suburbia is less of a big deal if I don't have to stay there, and if I don't have to involve my public identity in people thinking I am attached to a place I dislike.


I used to borrow people, too, and I noticed the same thing. It was easier to be easy with people I borrowed than people I married, because there was more a sense of “for now,” not “for always.” I was able to appreciate the present moment because there was no contractual guarantee of a shared future. I cared less about borrowed peoples' drawbacks because they didn't reflect on me. I felt free to appreciate their admirable qualities.


Could we bring that attitude to all of our relationships? Could we bring that kind of appreciation to everyday? Traveling awakens the senses, everything is new, everything requires attention. It cements us in the present moment. It’s enlightenment training wheels. But could we get down with the dharma and feel that way about wherever we are, and whomever we’re with, all the time?


When I travel, everyone presents me as “Jordana from San Francisco.” But I do not feel like Jordana from San Francisco. That is the past. Why does everyone ask where you're from, instead of, “where are you going?”


And the best possible question:


Where are you right now?