I’ve been to Iceland twice, most recently in mid-April of this year. It is a country that made a strong impression on me when I first visited last summer with my wife. We went on a tour that took us all around the country. We spent a good bit of time being taken around in a tour coach in very rural (and even wilderness) areas. The Icelandic landscape is amazing, like nothing I have ever seen anywhere. I doubt there is any land that is like it anywhere else in the world.

Traveling around thus, seeing this wondrous landscape, I experienced a new and profound sense of the awesome enormity, the unimaginable vastness and power, of nature, and of the smallness and pathetic vulnerability of us, we mere humans, in this incredibly vast natural world that is far beyond our capacity to understand. I had a new intuition for our ultimate existential nature, i.e. that we are all lost in a world that we can’t possibly comprehend. I haven’t experienced such a powerful sense of awe in any other place I have ever been. It changed my way of looking at and thinking about the world and our place in it.

Later, I went back in April of this year for the Iceland Writers Retreat, and I recall spending an afternoon walking around Rejkjavík with two of my newfound writer-friends. We did some shopping, went to a restaurant and a couple of cafes. Sitting in a crowded cafe with my friends, I saw them with a strange kind of double-vision. I saw them in that warm and cozy cafe, sipping coffee, but I also saw them and myself as tiny beings adrift in a vast, dark, and wild world of nature all around us, extending indefinitely beyond the edges of the city. And I felt that that dark, fierce, and wild world out there was (as the tiny and vulnerable mortals that we are), as much as we would like to imagine otherwise, our real life, our truer and more complete destiny.

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