Observations from Travel

I was lucky enough to be able to travel last summer. My goal is to make it to every continent and to study the local beliefs in every place I visit. I think that being immersed in a culture, even if it has grown and evolved since some of the great philosophers lived, will help me experience their world—or at least a part of the world that is different than my own.

I had been studying different aspects of Buddhism for a research paper (mostly on how it was both a religion and a philosophy) at school and got very interested in visiting Nanjing. After three years of begging for money in lieu of gifts at every holiday and birthday, in addition to my own scrimping and saving, I finally had enough to take a trip there. It was incredible.

The purpose of going to Nanjing was so that I could explore the QiXia Temple. I had never been somewhere so old in my entire life. I wanted to see the temple and some of the Buddhist artwork so that I could have a better understanding of what the belief system was.I wanted to gain some insight into the people and how they expressed these ideals. I was able to see some amazing carvings and I lit incense in the Temple to pay my respects. It was an amazing experience. I spent a few days there and took about a lifetime’s worth of notes.

After that, I went to The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. If you ever need an example of man’s inhumanity toward man, you don’t need to go anywhere else. 300,000 unarmed Chinese people—men, women, children, the elderly—all victims of a ruthless invasion. It is a terrible place, brutal but beautiful in its purpose: to honor those who suffered and died under such terrible conditions, and to remind us that there is a darkness within all of us that can be unleashed on a massive scale when conditions allow it. It is sort of a mixed media experience—pictures, objects, sculpture, remains, documents. There is a path of footprints marking the survivors and the skeletal remains of some who did not. I left there brokenhearted yet in awe of the human spirit.It felt disrespectful to take pictures, so I did not take many, and I may never be able to look at the ones I did take. It was hard to end my trip with something like that but it was definitely worth seeing. I would have liked to travel around China some more, but I had to get back here if I wanted to keep my job (the whole purpose of which was to save money so that I could go on more trips). I plan to go back again, sooner rather than later. Maybe I will go toQufunext. I want to study Confucius more in depth before I go. After that, who knows? Maybe a visit to Freud’s birthplace, or perhaps to see the outside ofSatre’s old apartment on St-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. Maybe I’ll see what courses are offered next year and plan a trip in honor of that!

What about you? Do you think being somewhere helps you understand a particular person’s writing or a belief system better? Where would you want to go?