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Thought history humanity has always traveled. From prehistoric nomads to modern day migrants and vacationers, there have always been various types of travelers who travel for different reasons. Through looking at ancient texts and observing the world today, it is evident that travelers of all types are rooted in a sense of betterment and their travels have the power to teach all kinds of lessons. People travel for many reasons including the search for a better life, to gain power, to earn wealth or to expand their knowledge. Although, not all travelers have such positive motivators.
The Jewish scriptures of Ezekiel shows travel as a result of exile, which is pretty negative motivation. The Jewish temple was over thrown by the flourishing Babylonian empire, thus sending the Jewish People into exile. The prophet Ezekiel was prophesizing in the midst of this exile, for the people needed some direction in this time of uncertainty. From the Jewish perspective the loss of their temple, God’s home, was detrimental and caused them to question if God is even still present on this earth. Although the Jewish people were forced into this exile against their own will, they searched for a new home in hopes of a better life. Ezekiel discusses the experience of the Jewish people’s exile, but doesn’t mention anything about the motivations of the Babylonians. Most ancient sources dealing with conquering are extremely biased and one sided. Ezekiel only speaks of the Jewish people and give no mention to their bad guys, the Babylonians. Ezekiel would be considered more of a lament since it is from the perceptive of those who were conquered or sent into exile. While heroic stories like Homer’s The Odyssey come from the perspective of the attackers. In order to fully understand any situation, it must be viewed from all angles.
Single sided sources are still an issue in the recording of present day events, resulting in the polarization of opposing side. This polarizing is most evident in American politics. Many information outlets are biased towards one political belief. Although there are efforts being made to combat this issue, social media is hindering these efforts. Typically, sites like Facebook and Twitter use algorithms to show users more (similar) content based off of other things a user has shown interest in. This concept may seem harmless when it comes to showing dog lovers more videos of dogs. But, only seeing opinions of likeminded people leads individuals to have more radical beliefs. In turn, this makes people less open to compromise and not fully informed on important issues. In order to make rational (not radical) opinions people must look at both sides of a situation and make their own judgements, to understand the whole picture. Once both sides of a story are heard, horrific events like bombings and mass shootings start to follow a pattern of logic that can be used to prevent more tragedies. For example, the school shooting epidemic is partly driven by people in schools not taking bullying and mental health issues seriously enough. Typically, student shooters were mistreated in school and/or deal with mental health issues. If these issues are addressed sooner and taken more seriously, less people will reach the detrimental point of seriously considering homicide. Looking at the perspective of “the bad guys” is something that helps make sense out of any situation, even seemingly unthinkable ones.
In the case of the Babylonian exile, Jewish accounts like Ezekiel only see the Babylonians as the bad guy, and don’t say much about their motives. Although exiling people isn’t the most noble thing to do, at the time that is how empires were born and able to flourish. From a Babylonian perceptive, exiling the Jewish people was merely a step on their road to success. In the grand scheme of history, the Babylonians actually were very successful and made many cultural and educational advances. They created one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And, under the rule of King Hammurabi, who united Mesopotamia through conquest, made his new laws more accessible to people. He created the code of Hammurabi and displayed his laws to all citizens by writing his laws on large stone posts around his empire. By looking at the whole story, different inferences can be made about various events both historical and fictional.
Homer’s epic the Odyssey takes a more heroic stand point. At this perspective, the thoughts of feeling of those victimized are completely ignored. In The Odyssey, Odysseus conquers and pillages towns with no remorse for the people living there. He openly admits to when he “sacked the town and killed the men…took their wives and shared their riches equally” with his men. His story of destruction is something Odysseys views to be a heroic feat, and shows no remorse for what he did to the innocent Cicones on his travels back home from Troy. Odysseus mistreats people in his travels for personal gain. And, in the case of the Trojan war for his country own to gain more power. Conquering other lands isn’t the only way people use travel to become more powerful.
In the classic middle eastern tale The Arabian Nights Tales of 1001 Nights, travel has more peaceful motivations. Sinbad the sailor is a merchant who travels “…to trade and make a profit” (night 550) among other more honorable reasons. He travels to other lands selling goods to make a profit and spreading knowledge across the world. As a merchant Sinbad was able to make “…a great deal of money and… became a man of importance in the city” (night 552). Sinbad showed the power trading and traveling can have when he introduced horse saddles to the king. Sinbad’s saddles crossed many boarders including; social boarders by receiving a higher status and cultural boarders through spreading the innovative technologies from other lands. Both Sinbad and the lands he visited benefited from his travels. While traveling Sinbad was fulfilling desires beyond simply earning a living as a merchant. Sinbad longed for adventure, he “felt a pretentious urge to travel to foreign parts, to associate with different races…”. He not only traveled for wealth but he traveled to learn.
I personally believe Sinbad had the right mindset in accepting and embracing the beauty of the world through experiencing other cultures and ways of life. This sense of adventure and the desire to immerse in to other cultures is a concept still embraced by people of today. Students today expand their knowledge about other cultures like Sinbad did through studying abroad. Students spend a few weeks in a different country not only to learn through their academic courses, but also through immersing themselves in a different culture. Learning about other cultures helps to expand peoples understanding of the world and makes them more tolerant of others. Although traveling is the best hands on experience to learn about other cultures, studying the history of other cultures has similar effects.
Through studying the travels of people and characters from the past, understandings about our world today can be made. Although these travelers had different motivations, they all show valuable lessons.
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