Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A place is only a place

Dune, by Frank Herbert, is probably my favorite book of all time. I read it twice in college (once on my own, and then once as assigned reading for a sociology class). That's right - we read Dune in a social science class because of the the story's richly developed religion, social structures, classes, etc. I've read it a couple more times since then, as well. It's a story with many themes; many facets to think about and digest.

One particular bit of dialogue that has stuck with me, and that I think about quite often, comes in a scene before the Atreides family has left their homeworld, the blue planet Caladan. The household is preparing to relocate to Dune, the rich but deadly desert world so unlike their Caladan. The novel's protagonist, Paul, asks his tutor (the Atreides Master of Assassins), Thufir Hawat, if he is going to miss their present home. To this Hawat replies "Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place."

When my family moved from New York to Maryland, and while I was living in Japan, I mostly agreed with that sentiment. Sometimes I still do. I don't miss living in New York, but I do miss friends that remain there. I miss friends and people who were special to me in Japan. And if I were to leave the Maryland/DC area, I probably wouldn't miss it so much, though I would miss some people here.

There definitely are things I miss about life in Japan, though. Shops and places, smells, sensations. Of course the mind revises and romanticizes memories so that we don't place as much weight on the things we don't miss.

I think one of the things I miss the most often is the sight of hills or mountains in the distance. In many of the places I lived or visited in Japan, there were rolling forms off on the horizon. As Bilbo Baggins says, "I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains[...]"

I suppose the question isn't black and white, as is the case with so many things. How about you, dear readers? Are you the type to miss places? People?


  1. People. Sometimes certain aspects of places, but overwhelmingly, it certain people.

  2. I mostly miss places.

  3. Dune is on my list of books to read - I think the real time strategy game based off the book is my first memory of ever playing an RTS.
    Regarding missing people and places, I'd go for both. Even if you can't visit the same place twice, it was really nice to visit Japan again after being away for 2 years. The smell of the rice fields really took me back to my time on JET.

  4. Haha yeah, I remember those Dune games. Had Dune 2000, which was basically Command and Conquer reskinned, and I saw screenshots of the one before that - old school.

    I've been back once since JET, too. Hope not too many years pass before the next trip.

  5. More people should read Dune ;)
    After my first round in Japan I wondered if it was the people or the place I was missing. While I definitely missed (and miss) the people, my second visit made me realise just how much I had missed the place. Just watching the scenery pass by on the train out of the airport nearly had me in tears. Memory is so deeply linked to smells and tastes, and there are so many distinctive scents and flavours here.