Personal · Storytime

The Ones Who Can Bring Peace (Part III)


“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg



      Later, in the medieval times, traveling was still not widely practiced, but it was an activity that fascinated people all over the world. As in antiquity, in Middle Ages traveling belonged to the minority that, in those days, could afford to travel frequently. Still, even if the working class didn’t have the possibility to travel long distances like going from a continent to another, they were accustomed to walk all around their countries and even to go to other ones. The non-existence of mechanical means in the Middle Ages meant that people had strong legs used to walk, a fact which has been documented with the forensic examination of human skeletons of that time. During these centuries the people who traveled the most were merchants, migrants, messengers, soldiers, pilgrims, nobles, artisans, artists, and intellectuals.

          Another thing to take into account was the lack of maps in those times. Though they existed, they were almost never intended for use by travelers, instead typically being drawn on large sheets of stiff velum and mounted on walls as a sort of status symbol showing off the owner’s knowledge of the world. While naval travelers could use compasses, lunar tables, and astrolabes, those traveling overland would have to rely on knowledge of the terrain and basic sun-and-star navigation. If traveling in an unfamiliar land, one might hire a guide or else have to rely on the spoken directions of locals. Even if it was a relatively dangerous activity, people were delighted with the idea of discovering the world. T. S. Eliot said that the journey not the arrival matters but for the people living in those times the point where they wanted to arrive was more important than the lands they passed until getting there because of the difficulty of the route and because most of the times they were focused on a certain land of which they had a vague knowledge and which they hoped to reach.

          Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali Ibn Nafi’, better known as Ziryab, lived at the end of the eighth century until the middle of the ninth century. He was singer, oud player, composer, poet and teacher from the Abbasid Caliphate. He traveled long to spread his art and knowledge and thanks to his talent he was very appreciated even by kings. He was even known as a polymath. First, he achieved notoriety at the Abbasid court and later he traveled to the land where today lays Syria, to Ifriqiya ( in the area of modern Tunisia), where he lived at the Aghlabid court of Ziyadat Allah and to Andalusia. He became a prominent cultural figure and he was able to connect people from different parts of the world through his art. Al-Maqqari said about Ziryab that there never was, either before or after him, a man of his profession who was more generally beloved and admired.

          Giovanni da Pian del Carpine was an Italian traveler who lived between the end of the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth centuries and he was one of the first Europeans to enter the court of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He wrote “Ystoria Mongalorum quos nos Tartaros appellamus” translated as “History of the Mongols, which we call Tartars” which is the oldest European lore of the Mongols. During this period of time, Europeans were constantly attacked by Tartars and del Carpine cleared up the fact that Mongols were not the same with Tartars. He talked about the Mongolian manners, religion, character, history-making Europeans to learn about those foreign lands and to see the differences between two different nations. He tried to diminish the resentment that Europeans had about the Mongolians and, due to the information he gathered during his journey, he managed to stop the formation of a feeling of generally unfounded hatred.

     These are just two out of many examples of people who, thanks to their passion and willing to travel, succeeded in connecting with other people and to bring peace among. They opened their hearts to the world and helped others to open theirs as well. It is great to see how a person who came into direct contact with other cultures is able to open the minds of other people and to make them see beyond the horizons they had until then. Something changed in the mentality of the people who lived in the Middle Ages and later because,  as Miriam Beard stated, traveling is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

    Nowadays traveling is way easier than before and even cheaper. We can travel the world on a low budget and without having to take too many risks so it is the perfect time for each of us to take a step forward and to start to explore the world.

     Travelling is same as reading books. Travel gives you time to think, to ideate, to observe and to learn new things. It also gives a lot of time to introspect on how certain things are done around the world and to start to understand the differences between one place and another. It helps us to get a benchmark on life and inspiration to live better, or perhaps, happy to be living a better life and giving back to those in need. After all, those who travel learn the value of men. It widens our horizons and increases our knowledge. To view new customs and different ways of living is fantastic for the mind. It gives us a new perspective on life and especially our life. It can help us change or improve some of our habits. Discovering different values and ways to get by in life is like a vitamin for our minds and souls.

          Travelling is similar to the concept of stairs: the higher you climb, no matter how tired you are, you still want to take an extra step to see more; I would call it an infinite stairway. The beauty of going through this way is that the more places you see, the more you want to see and each time you remember how we are small and how even though sometimes we tend to consider ourselves as the center of the universe, we are only another part of what surrounds us, of what we call life.

     First of all, travel helps you to learn more about yourself, to discover who you are thanks to the challenges and opportunities that it lays at your feet. It will help you get stronger and independent. It will open your eyes as long as you want to open them and it will make you an incredibly more well-rounded human being.

     Second of all, it creates meaningful relationships because people you meet while on the road become some of the most valued names on your contact list. Encountering them and getting in touch with them teaches you how to act around another people who have a different background than you, it teaches you how to communicate with them and it even improves your other social skills. It ultimately makes you realize that we are all the same because, after all, even though our cultures may be different, as individuals we are all equals since there is just one race when it comes to people, namely the human race.

     Maybe the most important thing we learn by traveling is tolerance. It makes us able to sympathize with beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with our own ones. Reaching this point is on some level equal with making peace which is about acceptance. While we move around the world we assume the fact that we will be faced with situations or opinions that contradict our values but if we are open minded we will accept them as they are important for someone else. As Tyler Cowen said, real cultural diversity results from the interchange of ideas, products, and influences, not from the insular development of a single national style because one thing is certain, that there is strength in the differences between us.

     Meeting people from other cultures will teach you that the way you’ve been looking at the world isn’t the way everybody else does. It is possible that your point of view has some major blind spots. Seeing the world for yourself will improve your vision and your grip on reality.

     Max De Pree tried to make us understand that we need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity but most probably while doing it we must not forget that we also have to get connected to other people on account of the fact that in the context of cultural evolution we tend to split off, separate and form subgroups. We have to understand that we will achieve peace only if we work as a whole, as a group who aims for the same things and who works and helps each of its members to achieve it.

     We live in the post-modern age, not of correspondence truth, nor of truth-coherence, but of the truth that has a meaning, of truth built upon the sensitivity of each one. Through virtues, value, and trust, disseminated through education, we transform mankind and our countries in better places. It is our duty and future generations duty to transform society into an empyrean of honest work, unconstrained by nothing, free and quiet, a space that comes in with trust, hope, moral and spiritual comfort.


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