Islands: a world apart
Britain and Japan are island nations, economically powerful and highly influential in world affairs. But as islands they do not haunt our dreams. Jules Verne's mysterious island, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and the island of Sindbad the Sailor on the other hand though they do not exist Linger on in our dreams into adult life. This issue is mainly concerned with real islands that are also dream islands, with the myths that have been woven around them and with the interplay they generate between the imaginary and the real.
Islands are not the only things that inspire dreams. Deserts, mountains and twilight can also take us out of humdrum reality and lift us high above our everyday selves. But some islands inspire dreams with a very special quality of their own, the quality of evoking wonder. While the Sahara may be propitious to meditation, it does not fill us with wonder, as do Easter Island and Ithaka.
Why do such places have this very special, very elusive feel to them? Perhaps because it is possible to live on an island and feel one is living in another world, because the island dweller's existence will never be an ordinary one. Islanders experience a sense of apartness, an awareness of the unreal within the real, of the permanent presence of the unexpected, a strange destiny in which every moment is an adventure.
Jacques Lacarrière puts it very well when he suggests that deep within this experience of a duality there may be a voyage into the deepest recesses of our own being, a long quest, starting out from what we believe ourselves to be, to discover what we really are, a winding odyssey that begins by taking us far away from ourselves and ends by bringing us face to face with the ultimate truth about ourselves.
Is our nostalgia for the wonderful island perhaps a metaphor for our yearning for the absolute? This is one of the avenues for exploration presented with the compliments of the season in this December issue.
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