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更新时间:2013-11-28 13:45:16 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Stroll Around the World

ON THE GULF OF AQABA, Jordan — I AM walking across the world. In January I set out on foot from Herto Bouri, an early site of Homo sapiens fossils in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia, to retrace the pathways of the first anatomically modern humans who colonized the planet at least 60,000 years ago. My finish line is in Tierra del Fuego, at the chilly tip of South America, the last nook of the continents settled by our ancestors. This long ramble will last seven continuous years. It will span 21,000 miles. (I have logged about 1,700 miles to date.)

约旦亚喀巴湾——我正在徒步周游世界。今年1月,我从埃塞俄比亚裂谷的智人化石早期发现地——赫托布里(Herto Bouri)出发,寻找第一批解剖学意义上的现代人类在至少6万年前占领地球的足迹。我的终点是南美最南端的、寒冷的火地群岛(Tierra del Fuego),这是所有大陆上最晚有人类定居的角落。这次漫长的徒步漫游将持续七年时间,路程绵延21000英里(约合33796公里)。(我已经走完了1700英里)

I’m writing dispatches along the way for National Geographic on subjects as varied as human evolution and conflict, nomadism and climate change. The “Out of Eden Walk,” as I’m calling it, uses deep history as a mirror for current events. But even as I adhere strictly to my brand of bipedal journalism, trying as it were to put myself in a Pleistocene state of mind, cars keep roaring into my awareness. They are inescapable. They are without a doubt the defining artifacts of our civilization. They have reshaped our minds in ways that we long ago ceased thinking about.

我在旅行途中为《国家地理》(National Geographic)撰稿,涉及人类进化和冲突、游牧和气候变化等林林总总的话题。我所称的“走出伊甸园”(Out of Eden Walk)之行旨在用纵深的历史观照当下的事件。但是,即便在我严格遵守自己的徒步新闻采访特色,努力让自己沉浸于一种更新世(Pleistocene)的心态之际,喧嚣的汽车仍然不断闯入我的意识。它们简直无法摆脱。它们无疑是界定我们文明的发明。它们以各种方式改变了我们的思维方式,而我们早已不再思考这些变化的方式。

As I inch from the poorer subtropical latitudes into the richer temperate zones of the planet, for example, there has been a dramatic shift in human consciousness.


At the walk’s start in the Horn of Africa, one of the last habitable places on earth where automobiles remain scarce — according to the World Bank, Ethiopia musters perhaps two or three motor vehicles per 1,000 people — walking was a near-universal activity. The Rift Valley desert and people’s relationship to it are still shaped by the human foot. Trails unspool everywhere. Everyone functions as a competent walking guide — even small children.

我旅行的起点非洲之角是地球上仅有的汽车仍然不多的人类居住地之一——根据世界银行(World Bank)的数据,埃塞俄比亚每1000人或许仅拥有2到3辆机动车——步行是一种几乎人人都在从事的活动。裂谷沙漠以及人们与它的关系,仍然靠人类的双脚来塑造和书写。羊肠小道四通八达。人人都是合格的徒步向导,就连小孩子也是。

But once I crossed the Red Sea on a camel boat to the Middle East, where car ownership explodes to 300 or more vehicles per 1,000 citizens (the figure in the United States balloons to about 800), I’d entered a region subjugated utterly by the vulcanized rubber tire.


In Saudi Arabia, I had trouble simply communicating with motorists who have lost the ability to imagine unconstrained movement to any point on the horizon. Asking directions is often pointless. Like drivers everywhere, their frame of reference is rectilinear and limited to narrow ribbons of space, axle-wide, that rocket blindly across the land.


“Why did you leave the road?” one Saudi friend asked me, puzzled, when I improvised an obvious shortcut across a mountain range. “The highway is always straighter.”


To him, the earth’s surface beyond the pavement was simply a moving tableau — a gauzy, unreal backdrop for his high-speed travel. He was spatially crippled. The writer Rebecca Solnit nails this mind-set perfectly in her book “Wanderlust: A History of Walking”: “In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale.”

对他来说,地球上没有铺路的地方只是一块移动的图片——对他的高速旅行构成一个不真实的、朦胧的背景。他的空间感已经受损。作家丽贝卡·索尔尼(Rebecca Solnit)在《漫游癖:步行的历史》(Wanderlust: A History of Walking)一书中将这种思维模式描述得淋漓尽致:“从某种程度上说,汽车已经成为了一种假肢,尽管假肢通常适用于受伤或者肢体有残疾的人,但这种汽车假肢适用于那些在概念上残缺的人们,或者说,被这个规模大得超出人类掌控范围的世界损伤的人们。

I just call it Car Brain.


The incidence of Car Brain grows with rising latitudes across the surface of the world. (Then it vanishes at the poles, where Plane Brain replaces it.) In the affluent Global North, this syndrome will be familiar to any hiker who has had to share a walked landscape with motor vehicles.


Cocooned inside a bubble of loud noise and a tonnage of steel, members of the internal combustion tribe tend to adopt ownership of all consumable space. They roar too close. They squint with curiosity out of the privacy of their cars as if they themselves were invisible. In Saudi Arabia, this sometimes meant a total loss of privacy as Bedouins in pickups, soldiers in S.U.V.’s and curiosity seekers in sedans circled my desert camps as if visiting an open-air zoo, gaping at the novelty of a man on foot with two cargo camels. Other motorists steered next to my elbow for hundreds of yards, interrogating me through a rolled-down car window. (Not to pick on Saudi Arabia, which is no worse than any other Car Brain society, but exactly one driver in 700 miles of walking in the kingdom bothered to park and stroll along for a while.)


More striking than a Car Brain’s impaired road etiquette, though, are the slow pleasures it misses in life.


The Car Brain will never know the ceremony of authentic departures and arrivals. Towns and villages that were mere smears of speed along busy superhighways were celebratory events savored by my Saudi walking partners and me. Our step lightened with anticipation as we wandered into the outskirts. We laughed. We felt good: flushed with accomplishment. Similarly, packing our camel bags and walking out of a town was a special moment — an embarkation that signaled a tangible advance through space and time, and not the commuter’s inconvenience of simply “getting there.”


Car Brains have lost all knowledge of human interactions on foot. People stiffen when they see a pedestrian approaching from a distance. But they relax and smile as they hear your voice, see your empty (unarmed) hands. In Africa and in the remnant pastoral communities of Arabia you must stand dozens of yards away from huts and homes, waiting politely to be noticed, before exchanging greetings. A lovely courtliness marks these bipedal encounters.


AND then there is simply the act of traveling through the world at three miles per hour — the speed at which we were biologically designed to move. There is something mesmerizing about this pace that I still can’t adequately describe. While roaming the old pilgrim roads in Saudi Arabia, I came to understand how the journey to Mecca — the hajj — in the pre-airline days was perhaps as important as reaching Islam’s holiest city. Watching the Red Sea slide by my left shoulder as I walked north, seeing the white desert coast dance with ink-blue waters as one bay after another scalloped by, put me in a meditative trance that must be primordial.


These are natural, limbic connections that reach back to the basement of time — ones that Car Brains rarely experience. I must continually remind motorists that what I am doing is not extreme. Anthropologists have strapped G.P.S. devices to the Hadza people of Tanzania, among the last hunter-gatherers left on earth, and discovered that the men walk on average seven miles a day in pursuit of game. (Women a little less.) This adds up to 2,500 miles annually, or tramping from New York to Los Angeles every year. Given that this ancient economy is one that dominated 95 percent of human history, walking that distance is our norm. Sitting down is what’s radical.


I have nothing personal against motorized travel. Cars build middle classes. They grant us undreamed-of freedom. And I suspect that I’ll be driving away from my walk’s end point in Chile in 2020. But it’s probably inevitable that, as I plod through the Middle East, Asia and the Americas over the next six years, I’ll become increasingly alienated from the growing bulk of humanity afflicted by Car Brain. The internal combustion engine has affected more drastic changes on human culture — flattening it through the annihilation of time and space — than the web revolution. Indeed, the century-old automotive revolution prepared the way for the rise of the Internet, by eroding the capacity for attention, for patience, by fomenting a cult of speed.


It can be lonely out here among the Car Brains. Sometimes, out walking, I feel like a ghost. Already, I have to seek out society’s marginal people to find my way across the planet. Settled nomads. The ambulatory poor. The very ancient, whose mode of transport is still a donkey or maybe a cart, elders who haven’t forgotten about earned distances. They point to referents beyond the aphasia of paved roads. I take my compass bearings off their paupers’ hands.