Sunday, 17 November 2013

An Appreciation

“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”

-- Lemoney Snicket

As a kid, I had an appreciation of travel.  Being from Bama....just a one-day trip was enough to amount to a journey of sorts.  You tend to see things and rationalize them in different ways.

After fifty-five-odd years of traveling and seeing a significant part of the US, and walking over a dozen-odd lands in Europe....toss two thousand books on history, culture, and geography.....I've come to three basic observations.

First, we all have a lack of appreciation over distances.  It's only been in the last 150-years that suddenly a guy could stand up and say he'd like to travel from Nashville to the west coast, and it wasn't a miserable and risky trip.

Columbus was one of those "few of the few" existing in Europe who traveled further in one day....than the vast ninety-eight percent of society did in their entire existence at the time.

I've crossed the Atlantic around fifty times now in my life.  It's a test of patience....spending ten hours on a plane, and the worst that come out of the experience is lousy choice of movies or too much mayonnaise on the one sandwich they offered me.  Three hundred years ago....it was an acceptable fact that one person out of three hundred on such a voyage would have passed from this Earth from some ailment or issue.

Five hundred years ago in Europe....it would have been rare to find few in a village of three hundred....that had been further than twenty miles from the village in their entire life.  You didn't take great journeys, explore the countryside on a whim, or set out on a hike where no road signs existed.

We have crossed over some perception that travel is an accepted thing and can't envision a society who never traveled.

Second, after roaming around Rome, London, Paris, and the isles of Greece....I've come to this observation that folks from a thousand and even two thousand years ago....were a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

You can stand in front of any aqueduct in the Rome region, and marvel at the complex nature and workmanship put into a project like this.....yet it stands still today, and capable of functioning.  Imagine telling some New Jersey crew to build a modern-day aqueduct....to last a thousand years, and they'd laugh you out of the state.

Guys used to build bridges that were destined to last five hundred years.  Today?  We barely get to the sixty year point and folks start talking about erosion and the possibility of collapse.

This past week in Atlanta, they announced that the Brave's park will be vacated within four years (built and delivered in 1996 for the Olympics), and the Braves are building a new park ten miles up the road.....way beyond the metro region of the city.  The park will barely be used for twenty years....with comments this week that the Olympics park will be torn down once the new stadium is complete.  In Rome?  The old Coliseum is still standing, and with some minor renovation....could be put back into operation within a year or two.  Yeah, it's been two thousand years.

Third and final....after touring around Europe and reviewing history for two thousand years in the area....it's kind of obvious that a bunch of folks have died....mostly over their religious views or lack of religious views.

It didn't take much to get on the bad side of the Catholic Church a thousand years ago, and have some crew of authority arrive and "whack" five hundred residents to make a point.

Just making one negative whine about the Pope being a dimwit.....probably would get you a twelve hour lecture on civil talk in public....before they hung you in the public square.

It's not that one guy died because of his religious situation....or dozens....or hundreds....or thousands.  You could go beyond tens of thousands, into the hundreds of thousands over the past two thousand years....who died because of a disagreement on religion.

The Pilgrims?  They left safety and all civilization....because of a disagreement on religion.

After you've been around enough sights in Europe.....you marvel at how we've progressed through a big significant mess, and somehow survived intact.

I've come to some sort of appreciation of travel.  There are lessons to be learned.....wisdom gleaned off some Greek philosophers.....wit gained from some British gentlemen.....and humble thoughts from architecture a thousand years old.  We've come a long way.

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