Traveling through a continent with thousands of years of documented history as a 24 year-old North American causes you to feel small in the right way. We are traveling through these cities (London, Barcelona, Rome, Perugia and now Vienna) which have been here since at least the Roman times and in the cases of Rome and Perugia even further back (Rome was founded in ~700bc).
The theme for our travel term this time is ‘seeing the other’ and really I think this theme is more of a skill or a practice that one takes part in all the way through your life’s journey. Whether at home or abroad, learning to grasp another’s reality, or at least to attempt to imaginatively empathize with their experiences, is so valuable. In this process, of seeing from another’s perspective, in sharing experiences and dialoguing, we are enabled to encounter wonder, depth, worth and excitement anew.
Discovering how artwork, a stroll down a city street or a tour of medieval Italy is meaningful or impactful for someone else in a way that is other than your experience is integral aspect of learning to come to a deeper sense of appreciation. Sometimes, it’s not a thing in and of itself that we find alluring or intriguing, but rather the dialogue, passion and curiosity that surrounds it that we feel drawn to.
This travel term has had many rich and deep points of contact with history. Coming into contact with the ways in which peoples of the past interacted with the world around them (in building great Cathedrals, vast underground metro systems, communal squares, elaborate statues or tower-houses) and contemplating these past lives together has helped to deepen my desire to know more about the lives of those who lived life together before us. For me, it’s here in this question where ‘seeing the other’ becomes a journey into a great unknown.
As I explore and learn more and more about what people’s lives were like in the past, and who they were, I find that I come to deeper sense and appreciation for where I am now and how the world I’m existing in came to be built. I find that I come to a better sense of who I am and how I am supposed to function in this world that has been passed down to me. We don’t need to be overly nostalgic or lost in the past but we also can’t be historical amnesiacs. We should know, how the society we have inherited was created, otherwise we’re less likely to steward it properly, or hand it on to our grandkids in a respectful manner.