William Least-Heat Moon wants to put the miles between him and his troubles, and we're going along with him like a fly in his van riding shotgun. For a reference point on our journey, click on the thumbnail to get to the interactive map.
"...through the old statehouse town of Corydon, I drove to get the miles between me and home. Daniel Boone moved on at the sight of smoke from a new neighbor's chimney; I was moving from the sight of my own. Although the past may not repeat itself, it does rhyme, Mark Twain said. As soon as my worries became only the old immediate worries of the road - When's the rain going to stop? Who can you trust to fix a waterpump around here? Where's the best pie in town? - then I would slow down."
Blue Highways: Part 1, Chapter 5
The quote above cites one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain. The idea that the past does not repeat itself, but rhymes, appeals to me on so many levels. I've faced this in many aspects of my life. You hear the phrases "the more things change, the more they stay the same," or "we are doomed to repeat our mistakes." I think that these phrases touch on part of Mark Twain's idea. For me, when it seems that I finally get a handle on things, especially those situations that really set off negative reactions or times of self-despair or even self-destructiveness, I go through a learning process. I think to myself okay, I know how to handle these situations in the future and I will never go down that road again. But other situations come up that bring on the same negative consequences in my life. The situations seem different, but once you peel through layers of disguise, connections begin to reveal themselves. Only after I've gone through the whole damn process again do I realize that indeed, I was just relearning what I already learned. It can be very frustrating and maddening, but after the fact, I realize that Twain's rhymes were there if I'd only recognized them.
I don't know about any of you, but I have some of the spirit of moving on when one has the "sight of the smoke of a neighbor's chimney." I am an introvert, and am often uncomfortable around large groups of people. In addition, I grew up in a small town, and it's taken about twenty years for me to get used to living in cities. My wife despairs of me sometimes, because she loves to take advantage of cities and I, if left to my own devices, usually don't do the things that cities offer best - live music, theater, restaurants and other activities. Were I living in Daniel Boone's time, I might have done what he did and moved on when people got too near. But I'd probably come back from time to time, because I like people. As did Daniel Boone, who was largely responsible for settling Kentucky and served in the politics of the state in his later life.
Don't we often do that, whether or not we live in a city, or on a remote ranch somewhere? Humans seem driven by the need for people, and companionship, but also a need for our own space. This causes some interesting clashes, especially in our society where the old frontiers defined by seemingly limitless geography have given way to the new frontiers defined by how far we can go in the electronic, virtual world. People immerse themselves in computer activities, such as I do in this blog. It's a solitary thing that divorces us from the reality around us. A young man plays World of Warcraft and doesn't talk to another live human for weeks. A woman builds an avatar and disappears into Second Life. Yet even as they divorce from reality, they seek community in these places. Facebook is the most popular social networking site on the internet, with millions of people seeking companionship in their Facebook friends. World of Warcraft is interactive gaming with others, all solitary, sitting at their computers and connected to each other in the game. We don't often hear of the Daniel Boone's of this frontier, though some have decided to chuck it all and go "off the grid." We tend to think of them as a little crazy.
I don't know whether this aspect of our society is bad or good. I think the lack of real community is a negative, but you can't help but admire the new and innovative ways people are finding each other. Someone like William Least-Heat Moon, even as he drives to put the miles between him and home and the problems he is running from, can't help but pass through towns like Corydon, reminders that the world exists and that we can always plug back into true reality when and if we must.
Ho about a little information about Corydon? It was the second capitol of the territory of Indiana, and the first state capitol. It was also the site of the only Civil War battle in Indiana. For those of us into 70s television, the town was the birthplace of James Best, better known as Roscoe P. Coltrane, sheriff in the Dukes of Hazzard (the original TV series). The town is also known for its festivals and town activities. So, there's a bunch of reasons to stop there!
If you want to know more about Corydon
The Civil War and Corydon
Corydon Democrat (newspaper)
Corydon, Indiana (PDF from Center for Minority Health at University of Pittsburgh)
History of African-Americans in Corydon
Wikipedia: Images of Corydon
Next up: Louisville, Kentucky