the world is my home
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.