A Travellerspoint blog

Myself

reflective thoughts

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If I had to choose a favorite 10 foot square of the world, this might be it. This is the reading room of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. It reminds me of what I learned in France. In the picture, I sit in a room surrounded by books. In life, I am surrounded by a variety of people. They come from different cultures, embrace different ideas, practice different religions. Each person has a story to tell. Too often people, including myself, make broad classifications and judgments about others without a full understanding of their story. We say things like "I don't trust Muslims" or "French people are pretentious," and accept these false conclusions without second thoughts. But truthfully, if we analyzed both statements and put effort towards widening our understanding, we would reconsider our positions. We would come to find that our mistrust of Muslims is really a mistrust of extremist movements, and that most Muslims do not support terrorism at all. We would discover that French people are not rude, they are just not as open with strangers.

The most important thing I learned in France is that knowledge leads to toleration. To know someone's story is to love them. The excerpt we read from Aslan's Cosmic Wars helped me deeply grasp this concept. Aslan described the Jihad movement and the life of the average Jihad member in a way that provoked sympathy and love for the young men who become terrorists. If you know someone's story, it is possible to love them, even suicide bombers. I hope that the next time I feel intolerant of someone or some people group, I will remember that my lack of love for that person stems from my lack of understanding. I hope that I will attempt to know their story and find toleration for them in my increased knowledge.

As a cosmopolitan, I want to be tolerant of all individuals and all people groups, near and far. This will only be possible if I am willing to put time into learning the stories of peoples and cultures. Once I get past my intolerance of others, I'll be able to open dialogue with people different from myself. Engaging with others leads to learning. So, the cosmopolitan process starts and ends with knowledge.

Looking again at the picture, it is obvious that the cosmopolitan life is not the easy choice. There are so many things to be learned. So many stories to read. It would be easier to live in ignorance and misunderstanding, self-interested and void of love for others. But this is not the life for which I've been called.

P.S. Thank you for all your work, Dr. Mills. The trip was incredible.

Posted by Tayler 16:29 Comments (0)

Hospitality

kindness from a stranger

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My favorite location in Strasbourg was the small outdoor café, Le Part Thé. Located on the narrow streets by the train station, the café provided a quiet reading environment, free wifi, and the friendliest of hosts. One evening Kary and I enjoyed a quiche and salad dinner at Le Part Thé. In ordering our food, we discovered that the waitress spoke excellent English. She talked to us for around ten minutes about the time she spent studying in the U.S. with her Seattle-born boyfriend. At the end of our meal, she gave us each a macaroon from the pastry case and said with a smile, “It’s on me, it was so nice to meet you.” I was surprised by the extreme hospitality we encountered that night because it seemed very un-French.

It strikes me that just a bit of familiarity or shared experience between two people can form an instant bond between them. So much of a bond that a French student would go out of her way to share her life adventures with two American students who she will never see again. What does this mean in light of Cosmopolitanism? Is it good or bad that we gravitate towards familiarity and resonate with others who have similar life stories to our own?

I think it is mostly good. Those people who we connect with immediately bring smiles to our faces. It is good to make instant connections with other people; it makes us recognize the importance of shared humanity. But we have to work harder to make connections with “The Other.” There are language barriers, cultural barriers, religious barriers, etc. that create distance between “us” and “them.” It is difficult to engage with people who are unlike us, but it will be equally rewarding to connect with “the other” because underneath all the differences is the same common thread of humanness that we find in people like us. The connections we make with people from familiar cultures should encourage us to try to find such a connection with those from distant civilizations.

Posted by Tayler 16:03 Comments (0)

Cosmopolitan

the world is my home

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A Cosmopolitan is a citizen of the world. She is one who sees herself as a member of humanity as a whole, beyond just a member of a specific civilization, country, or culture. This global mindset creates a responsibility of shared life—to learn from each other, help each other, and respect each other, even when understanding cannot be found.

Looking at this picture, I see another aspect of Cosmopolitanism that can easily be ignored; not only must we learn from those who share life with us on the globe now, we must also learn from those lived in the cultures of the past. To ignore that responsibility is to choose ignorance.

It would be a mistake to believe that a person who lives in China has no relevance to a citizen of America. After all, though their day to day experiences with the government, religion, and many other cultural aspects may differ greatly, they have a great deal in common well, simply due to their shared humanity. Similarly, though a Frenchman living today experiences life in a drastically different manner than a Frenchman of the 1700s, a contemporary French person can still learn much from the writings of Voltaire, for example. There is much to learn from studying the lives of those who have gone before. Whether those people lived within our country of origin or a country half-way around the world, it is not always an easy task to connect with individuals of the past because they existed in a different culture than our own.

We cannot fully understand ourselves until we understand those who have paved the way. As an American, I cannot understand what it means to be an American without knowledge of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. But I cannot understand Washington or Jefferson without knowledge of 18th century British government leaders. And I cannot understand 18th century England without a broader scope of knowledge to understand how England was located within a global context. Why were the British colonizing everything in and out of sight? Where did they get the resources for such an endeavor? Why did no other countries have the resources to resist colonization? I have an answer to all these questions, but my answers are not complete. I have much to learn about the world and about different civilizations, those of the present and those of the past, if I desire to be a good Cosmopolitan. Of course, I will never reach complete knowledge, but it is my responsibility to try. So a decision to be Cosmopolitan means more than engaging with people presently living at all ends of the world, it also means engaging with individuals of the past.

Posted by Tayler 16:00 Comments (0)

Kingdom of God

Christian love in the Alps

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At L’Abri I caught a glimpse of how the Kingdom of God should look. What a wonderful thing it is to see people from all corners of the earth, from all walks of life, and from differing theological, political, and philosophical biases living in community with each other. I wish that toleration for contrasting ideas and genuine discussion were more commonly practiced within the Christian church.

I found joy in the simplicity of lifestyle. Of course, members of all classes so not have the money to spend a term at L’Abri. But for those that do, I imagine what they experience makes them hunger all the more for the final coming of Christ. I wonder if L’Abri is a step closer to the lifestyle we were designed to experience, before the Fall changed our course. Maybe if we lived in a world without sin, everyone would be able to spend their days working communally, talking about God, and reading each others’ ideas.

Christians are to be known by their love. Unfortunately, the Church often falls short of that call. But at L’Abri I encountered toleration for others and love for others that are to be admired. I was encouraged by the way individuals engaged in discussion with each other, with intention to grow and learn, instead of with intention to tear down and disprove the opposing opinion. There is something very kingdom-of-God-like about a diverse group of people overcoming differences to find genuine fellowship and support in one another.

Posted by Tayler 15:58 Comments (0)

Borders

Why can't we all be friends?

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This bridge crosses the Rhine River, which serves as a border between France and Germany. Rivers, mountain ranges, and other natural landmarks have served as dividing lines between people groups as long as governments have been known to exist. To what extent is it positive or negative that humanity has created such staunch borders among themselves?

Separation among people groups has created a great diversity of cultures and languages in the world. This displays the creativity and individuality of humans, which in turn displays the creativity and uniqueness of God. Humanity’s lack of homogeneity allows a broader reflection of the image of God. It also allows people to learn from each other when cultures collide, because each culture has perfected different trades, customs, sciences, and so on.

But such separation is not always constructive. Often separation, which at best creates uniqueness and diversity, instead creates animosity and supremacy. History shows that when contrasting civilizations collide at the borders, often each side believes itself to be the superior culture and animosity is born. This hostility often ends in small fights or all-out war.

Perhaps the worst part of this repeated scenario is that it turns a potential win-win situation into a lose-lose situation. Sure, wars typically end with a winner, and that winning side will obtain war spoils like a new piece of land, or people to make into slaves, etc. But in the end, they are really not winners at all, for the world they inhabit is now worse off than it was before. The best world would be one in which people lived at peace with one another, learning from each other, and sharing the world we’ve been given. Borders are not an inherently detrimental to the improvement of humanity, but they become so when our borders are marked by hostility and fighting.

Posted by Tayler 15:54 Comments (0)

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