Fine Iron

When it comes to analyzing the past there are different trains of thought according to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcasts. There is the “Trends and Forces” theory, which asserts that  the events of the world are influenced by the pressures of society and the natural order of how things fall, and if you were to remove people from history they would most likely be replaced by another who would capitalize upon the same trends. For example, in Germany after World War 1 the political, social, and economic environment was ripe for an authoritarian leader to seize control and had Hitler not existed another aspiring German would have taken his place in the Nazi Party. On the other hand, there is a competing viewpoint known as the “Great Man” theory. The “Great Man” theory emphasizes the importance of individuals throughout history. It asserts that in critical moments had certain individuals not existed, our world would be a much different place.

As the Whai Whai adventure through Rome concluded, I had an opportunity to see an artifact from one of the lesser known great men of history. Our hotel here in Rome resides upon the ground where Julius Caesar was assassinated, a pivotal moment in history. What I didn’t realize is without the event that the ruins in front of our hotel commemorate the Roman victory over the Cimbri people. The war against the Cimbri and Teutones, two massive tribes appearing from the north with little notice, nearly ended the Roman Republic in 100 BC. Upon realizing the threat, the Roman people abandoned their customs and gave the control of the government, the position of consul, to Gaius Marius. Gaius Marius then led the legions of Rome to defeat this colossal threat, a feat commemorated by the ruins directly out front of our hotel. Little did the Roman people know that the precedent set by Marius’ near dictatorship of necessity and its consequeneces allowed the rise of one Julius Caesar to those same heights a short while later. It is easy to take the greats of history and attribute all their success to their abilities, or distill them down to the trends that led up to them. It is easy to overlook the individuals, lesser known and lesser appreciated, who influence them.

When I look at the two theories, I believe neither fully encompass how great change comes about. In my opinion it does come down to the role of the individual, not simply the one who enacts the change, but those around that “Great Man”—or woman—who grow, influence, and support them. This assertion that the community that surrounds a person dictates what they can achieve isn’t exclusively applicable to history but instead all of humanity. No matter the level of intrinsic talent, intellect, or charisma a person possesses, alone there will always be a ceiling as to what can be accomplished.

This is the beauty of CR 10, it was a perfectly crafted environment to push and challenge. No matter what any of our members go on to do or accomplish, it won’t be alone. The same way it can be difficult to see the influences of the community upon the individuals of history, the same may be able to be said about us, but I truly believe that each of us have impacted each other for the long term. CR 10 forces thought, examination, and reflection of a historic scale on a personal level. The same line uttered on the first day of CR by Jake Lynn stating Dr. P to be one fine piece of iron rings true for us all on the last. As iron sharpens iron, so will on member of the CRedcade sharpen another.

As I return home I have been left the sights, the experiences, the memory, and the people. The impact has hopefully been made, now comes a summer of reflection to make these changes into  reality.

 

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A 2000 Year Old Wall

One of the coolest things in Rome, in my opinion, is the Basilica di San Clemente. What appears to be a normal church – at least normal by the standards of Italian churches – turns out to be the location of a part of history quite unique to the city. Rome is the lasagna city, as the new Rome is built on top of the old one. This is why there’s no subway system: every time they dig, they find some 2000 year old ruins and have to call the archeologists and stop the excavations. Another name for it is the eternal city, as it’s history has been preserved so well.

This basilica models this theme perfectly: it is built on top of an older church, which is built on top of some aristocrat’s house where they held cult meetings during ancient Roman times. So you can quite literally walk through time and see how Rome has progressed through the years in its architecture, theology, culture, artwork, etc. It’s truly amazing. Jake Lynn and I walked through most of the ruins together and spent most of the time trying to understand what the cult believed in. We’re still lost, but that’s okay. The rest of the time was spent trying to wrap our heads around how old the stone we were standing next to was. Our conversation looked something like this:

*touches the wall*

“Dude, this Stone is literally as old as Jesus.”

“Yeah, like when people lived here, Jesus to them was some guy from Nazareth.”

“2000+ years ago…”

“Wow… what does that even mean?”

“It’s 100 times as old as us.”

“It’s 10 times older than the founding of our country.”

“It’s almost 150 times as long as we’ve been in school.”

We stood there with our hands on the wall for a good 10 minutes going back and forth about ways we could understand what 2000 years meant. We probably looked like idiots to the rest of the tourists – but what tourist has ever looked like a rocket scientist? Once we finally felt like we had a good grip on what something that old meant, we realized how much history had been going on before that house was built. We didn’t even try to wrap our heads around that. The realization we came to was we are playing a role in a story so much larger than our own lives, and that was humbling and empowering at the same time.

We’ve seen a lot over the course of the last month. We’ve learned about how to respect the memory of those that are oppressed and how to maintain the knowledge of what can go wrong based on what has gone wrong; we’ve seen how even the biggest castles can’t defend us from Gods plans; I jumped out of an airplane and experienced one of the most beautiful places on Earth; we climbed to the top of the Alps, we felt the gentleness of the breeze on the sea and the peace of Riomaggiore; we learned from some of the greatest minds in history about art and its significance to the world as well as how generations can change and shape a culture, enjoyed world class gelato in the countryside of Tuscanny; and our experience came to a close in Rome. It’s amazing how much we have accomplished on this experience: it’s more than words can really convey.

But very little of that matters to the majority of the world. Few people are going to care that I skydived, or ate a bunch of gelato, or went in a bunch of museums. What matters is that we spent the last 3.5 weeks getting closer to each other and figuring out ways to relate to people who would have no connection to us from the outside. The reality is, we are all human beings, and human beings have been around for a while. And since everyone had to come from somewhere, there’s a good chance we all have a connection to every single person on Earth through the history of humanity and its struggles.

I have no idea who walked through that ancient Roman ruin when it was in its prime back in the day. But I do know that they were human beings, that they had families whom they loved, kids they were trying to raise, bills to pay, and a job to do it with. Something some random dude in Riomaggiore told me was that his son had just finished traveling around the entire world, and the one thing he learned was that it doesn’t matter where you are, or how far from your house you stand. People are people. They all have so much more worth than any adjectives can prescribe them.

We have this shared humanity that spreads across time and space, and it’s necessary to recognize the intrinsic value that we all hold. When you think about all of this, it’s hard to treat anyone with anything other than love and respect.

So as Cultural Routes 10 comes to an end, I feel all of the same bittersweet emotions as everyone else. And I think that we all recognize how powerful the knowledge we’ve gained is, and how much influence we can have in helping the world out by working together.

The Eternal City

Rome has been a dream. I dream that I will wake up from on Saturday unfortunately, but I could not think of a better place to end the experience. Just in these last few days I think I have said “this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” at every turn in Rome. The other day, Jake related Rome to lasagna. As odd as that sounds, I don’t think I have heard anything more accurate. The city is layers upon layers of history that goes back to 3000 years ago. Thats before Jesus people.

One of the many highlights of Rome was seeing Vatican City. I stepped in my fourth country of the trip and my eyes were pulled in every direction at something new that was most likely 2000 years old. We walked through the palace and were greeted with stunning paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Stunning sculptures and marble from the Colosseum were at every turn. I learned that I have a serious fascination with ceilings after taking pictures of each one I saw (there are a few below). The Sistine Chapel, as expected was breathtaking. However, what was not expected was what I learned about Michelangelo. There is one word to describe him, many of you think the word genius is the correct word, but I am going to go with savage. He was a genius, absolutely, but he turned down the Pope…multiple times. That is just something you cannot do. After painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo vowed to never go back to the chapel again. He actually never left the ceiling for four years, I wouldn’t want to go back either. But, there was another blank wall and the Pope insisted that Michelangelo should paint it. Michelangelo turned the Pope down, several times, until 20 million dollars was put on the table for him to paint it. Then, of course he agreed. Even though he agreed to paint this wall, he did it his way. The Last Judgement was the painting right behind the alter and Michelangelo painted it all of naked people, not exactly something you expect to see when going in a chapel, is it? He explained that God sees us all naked, so the people are naked. Interesting interpretation I suppose, but needless to say, he surprised me. (continue past pictures).

Highlight number two: I met a Princess. She was not your ordinary princess, not that being a princess is ordinary, but she was a Texan. She graduated from the University of Texas and also attended Harvard Business School, not too shabby. Dr. P has an incredible talent of pulling strings to make amazing things happen. This one certainly rocked my world. We went into her home with artifacts that are 2000 years old and paintings from Caravaggio on her ceiling. Casual. Also, opera was founded in her home. The front room has incredible acoustics and artists from all over the world come to sing there. Indigo has the most beautiful voice and the Princess invited her to sing right there where opera was founded and recorded her to put in the archives. Indigo sang Over the Rainbow and it moved everyone to tears, that moment I will hold with me forever and I cannot wait to see her on Broadway someday. I promise you she will be the star in every show. After shedding some tears, she continued to show us around the house. I admired her in every way, she was so knowledgable about everything in the house and knew, what seemed like everything, about Italy and the family line.

Okay, I know I say this all the time, I admitted it earlier in this blog, but I really mean it this time. Today, I saw the coolest thing I have ever seen. Bear with me. Another fair warning, I just got back from seeing this so I am still pretty pumped up so forgive the grammar and random sentences, thank ya very much. Here we go…Today, I went to the prison that Peter and Paul were kept in. PETER AND PAUL PEOPLE. Peter wrote a majority of the Bible, he was friends with Jesus, talked to him like all the time!!! How cool is that!? Coming face to face with history is one of the most surreal feelings. It was very similar to the feeling of walking through Dachau. Controversial sentence, I know, but its the idea that something you have been taught and studied is now coming full circle. Seeing this was so exciting on the surface but it ran deeper. Christianity is something I identify with, Jesus is who I follow and strive to be like, so seeing this circle of learning and faith be partially completed (I’m dreaming of visiting Jerusalem) put a fire in my heart. Not that it was exciting that Peter and Paul were stuck in prison, but I stood where they were thousands of years ago, now that is so stinkin’ cool. I can’t really get over it. America is wonderful, but we just don’t have history like this. Rome’s roots run deep, I was in the same place as one of Jesus’s best friends, the one who Jesus said to come follow him and become fishers of men. He walked through life withe Jesus, saw him perform miracles after miracles, change lives, and then sacrifice His life for all of us. The man that denied Christ three times. Now thats history. By far the best experience on CR for me.

CR10 has been a surreal experience. There is nothing like this and I won’t ever be able to repeat it. Tonight we shared what we loved about each other, the ways we have impacted each other, and how we have grown through this experience. These people are my people. Each one of them is so special and so unique, I love them deeply and I know that they are with me for life. Tomorrow is our last day. It took everything in me not to cry this evening so I know the tears will come tomorrow night. I am so grateful for the memories made and the lifelong friendships, I am determined to make this last day an incredible one.