|Pakastani immigrant Muhammad "Palomino" Malik at his motel in Tucamcari - Gabriela Campos/Al Jazeera|
This photo is one of several by New Mexico photographer Gabriela Campos that ran with an article published the other day by Al Jazeera, the media conglomerate owned by the ruling family of the oil rich gulf emirate of Qatar. The Route 66 article centers on the New Mexican part of Route 66. It's one of a constant stream of Route 66 articles that get published, so people must love reading about Route 66.
There's an entire Route 66 travel industry made up of businesses, state and city tourist bureaus, historic places and a huge line of Route 66 souvenirs, but articles about Route 66, it seems to me, make up a separate industry.
The two industries overlap but are distinct in that one has to do with thinking and one with doing. One with being and one with becoming.
We travel, and we imagine traveling. We need to do both. At any given time we may think we know who we are and what the world is, but when we go out into it we find something different, and think again. The continual interplay between what we think and what we experience, between being and becoming, keeps the light of our consciousnesses flickering and maintains the illusion of sanity.
We don't really see or touch or smell or hear things. We think "light" lights up the world when actually the universe exists in darkness. What happens is that through nerve endings in our eyeballs our brain detects certain wavelengths of a certain kind of energy -- what we think of as "light" -- and uses it to create images for our consciousness.
We think the world our brain creates for us is taking place in front of our eyes but only because that's where we imagine it to be. It's "taking place" if it takes place at all only in our imagination. This imagined world might be three dimensional, like the measurements and instruments we imagine are measuring it, or it might not be. It might be hot or cold or soft or hard.
But we enjoy, we derive pleasure, from imagining things like Route 66. We enjoy receiving these particular image stimuli, and we enjoy creating them. We all have our Route 66s, but this Route 66 works for a lot of people.
It's both being and becoming. As the article's author puts it, it represents both decay and resilience. It's solid and malleable. It's Palomino Malik and al Qaida, the flag and the fire. It's the world that's moving past us and the one we move through, one we see and one we dream. It's both the highway and the motel.