On the consequences of transplanting. Once you take the man out of the land, things inevitably change. It is the same with plants as it is with the human being, that preposterous plant, as obstinate with its roots as it is in keeping rootless. What changes? His breathing changes, first of all, for different climes are bound to have different qualities of air, breathable or unbreathable or whatever. In one place it may be hard and heavy to breathe, because the air is like a thick mucus and his lungs are not made of durable or heavyweight material, but would be better for that other place; that other place where the air is thinner than transparent fabric, someplace where life is loaded down neither with dripping weights from the sky nor the ponderous or opaque gravity of a milieu; or a place in between where the average lung could manage to inhale and exhale comfortably enough. His thought changes, secondly, and with no explanation: perhaps it was his altered breathing that had goaded him down some other denkweg; maybe it was something else, something we will come to discuss. But for now thinking: all at once and all of a sudden, even if he comes to notice it even gradually, the grooves down which thought had proceeded are transformed, so their pacing, and with their pacing their color, and with their color and pacing their manner altogether, and with their manner the content, again, all at once and in a blink. There is no prejudice the human has more than the prejudice that we cannot escape these grooves in our brains, that we are caught in their turns as mouse is caught in its trap-maze. Such a prejudice is probably to blame for our not changing, for the dull-witted eye, like those stories of metanoia we read of when we were a child, those stories that continue to captivate us for all their unlikelihood. But when our thinking so changes it is like the alteration of our breathing: usually imperceptible and to be quite honest negligible, until you attempt to do something you were used to in the past, or couldn’t perform in the past, say taking a long hike or working outdoors for many hours; no matter if some fool within us wants to continue his old manners of thinking, how he thought, for instance, in Chicago or in Los Angeles or in Miami, and trudge along in this way–no more than if he were to continue taking heavy breaths in the thin air, after moving from a place where it was dense and obstructing! His breathing and his thinking changes: these are obvious enough for those who have the eyes and ears for such things.
But what moreover changes is his power, or his effectiveness, how far he is able to wield the forces of himself, in what direction and with what consequences. A tropical vine would surely flourish and extend itself more in the tropics than on the trellis of a grandmother’s porch in the Midwest–some things are not meant to establish themselves anew in new places and among new surroundings. Likewise one’s intentions and the capability of these being accomplished, one’s desires and the capability of these being satisfied, one’s creative talents or inborn strengths and the capability of these being fulfilled, are all of them made more or made less depending on where a man finds himself, that in conjunction with where a man is most suited. It must be, then, that, with the mutation of one’s powers, there comes a mutation of who one is, at bottom or on top or wherever we happen to locate one’s identity. His breathing–and we missed his eating, and the way the man takes shelter in these different places where his arms are made to stretch, or to pull back sullenly–as well as his thinking and his effectiveness are changed by where the man happens to stand; it must be that the man himself changes–at least over the long term, in a type of Darwinism or evolutionary geography of the personality. How else could a man be whose very way of taking in air, not to speak of food and of taking himself to bed, whose very manner of approaching his thoughts, like a warrior or like a maiden or like a knight or like a mixture of all three or something else entirely, other than something which he was not, something besides what he was used to being, what he had grown used to being, with the air and water the way it was distributed, the avenues for his growth being allotted to him a certain way, the amount of space he was given to make the most of himself being granted like a destiny of hard and rocky or lush and fertile soil?
These four, then: his breathing, his thinking, his power, and with these three his identity; all of them are altered depending on where the man is planted. Not to say that so much else might not also be transformed in this manner. Also not to say that place is all that matters; it could be that there is something rather beautiful and worthy of admiration, if not outright noble, in committing oneself, as to flames, to a territory, to a sphere of influence, that will utterly destroy one, where one could not live even if he were the toughest, and perhaps the most flexible, specimen.