My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place or context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way -- hostile to my fantasy of being a true individual, of living somehow outside and above it all... To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant, but essentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.My questions:
1. Is Wallace saying anything about travel in general, or just intranational travel, or just travel that deserves the label "tourism," or just tourism that is also "mass"? If he's not saying something about travel in general, what is it about this subset of travel that deserves this special loathing?
2. What do these feelings have to do with being an American, and what is "pure" and "late-date" about it? Haven't there been "alien, ignorant, greedy" travelers all over the place and throughout the ages?
3. As we know, Wallace was deeply depressed and ultimately committed suicide, and is that the main thing that passage means?
4. On page 237, Wallace tells us that "lobsters are basically giant sea insects" -- lobsters and insects are all arthropods -- and that they are "garbagemen of the sea, eaters of dead stuff," so if we become "an insect on a dead thing," we're like the lobster, right? And therefore we shouldn't eat lobster, presumably. Or should we? We are after all hateful, in that view, so why spare the lobster?