This collection of vignettes is the result of four journeys to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and equal number of ventures to the Indonesian archipelago. The years spanned are 1979-1995, though the writings do not necessarily appear in chronological order. As a painter, poet, and avid journal keeper, my attempt here is to present-with as little distortion as possible-the raw edge of realities which lifted me from my usual set of footholds into a consciousness far different from any experienced in my American homeland.
In the process of weeding out the seed experiences from my journals, I simultaneously discovered the poet Alain Bosquet who said," essential writing raises wild notions and challenge". Reading his poetry, I experienced the same unexpected realities that overcame me while traveling to distant lands: that these are indeed times of challenge, particularly in a world of failing human passion, rampant intoxication with speed, and an obsession with material quest. Clearly languages, the power to listen, to remember, and to speak truthfully are vanishing as quickly as clean water, breathable air, and a once-abundant, respected population of beautiful, intelligent, and diverse life species.
In Nepal, on several treks across the Himalaya, it came to me again and again: "If the world is so beautiful, why not be beautiful in it?" In Varanasi I realized that I had come to India to find to find in reality what one usually only sees in dreams. A journey in Bali, in 1993, brought me into a culture productively obsessed with art, music, theater, dance, and psychic transformation. At work, play, or prayer, the Balinese were busy finding balance within the interplay of good and evil-while maintaining an equilibrium within a complex weave of natural and supernatural forces. The Balinese concept of dance as mix of song, storytelling, and ancient mudra inherited from India reminded me of Native American rituals offered outdoors, off stage, in village squares. As in Asia, the lesson was clear: find balance within, learn from the wisdom keepers, proceed with insight, and you will begin to save the world.
"Being is difficult," Alain Bosquet says. "Imagining is fruitful. The poem is tomorrow's truth. It offers the reader a secular prayer through which he can imagine new rapports between man and the universe, man and the void, man and himself." I offer this book, these journeys, as a means toward the transformation, the metamorphosis, that he implies.
Step away from the familiar,
Touch, be touched. Leave home,
Let the unpredictability of the road shake your beliefs.
Find a new way back,
Along the way become someone else.
Perhaps this new he or she is the you that was there all the time, before you were defined or began to define that person who stares back from the mirror.
Back of the Book
A Question of Journey is john Brandi's celebratory collection of vignettes compiled in Asia, a spirited potpourri of people and places lavishly enhanced by his visionary collages. This is a journey through distant lands as well through the continent of the heart, rich with non-stop impressions, reflections and counter- reflections crowding the beholder's eye-surreal landscapes of India and Nepal; street theater in the deserts of Rajasthan; grim and touching episodes from barbaric urban ghettos; solitary journal jottings from a Himalayan pilgrimage; conversations with waifs and prophets, nuns and geologists, tillers of the soil and tillers of the soul. "Travel, step away from the familiar, touch, be touched, "Brandi says. "Leave home, let the unpredictability of the road shake your beliefs, find a new way back. Along the way become someone else." Anyone interested in the more esoteric aspects of travel-and the mind-will not forget this book.
"Brandi's work exemplifies the impressionistic postcard travel-writing style established by jack Kerouacc. His work seeks source and renewal in new geographies and in the act of travel with its inevitable encounters and mysteries. He gets inside and outside things. Nothing passes him by. He's a seer, a person who looks, who retains an abiding curiosity and sympathy with special people and places. Lucky for us that John's praiser, a psalmist if you will, affirming and preserving the facts of his life his art abounds in."
"Brandi deals with the mysteries of male-female relationships, the loss of innocence, the confrontation with spirituality in the real world, and the complex euphoria of being alive."
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