For those who say that history repeats itself, I say, “Man repeats himself.” We've been so unkind to our fellow human beings on and off throughout history. This thought came to me after my husband and I left behind the Outer Banks of South Carolina and let Gertrude, our GPS, direct us to historical sites. While on the Outer Banks it was as if we had been far away from the realities of life, much like the stars always in the night sky but are far enough away to ignore.
Coming back to the mainland of the eastern United States our travel to historical sites brought these questions. Why is it that mankind hasn't advanced to enjoy life and the world that is there for us? Why is it that we keep repeating wars? What is it that excites and motivates Man to demand power? In our communities we see separation by outward appearances, business relations becoming ugly and greedy, others picking fights, harboring hate and jealousy instead of working toward understanding that there is joy for all of us to experience.
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg’s authentic village demonstrates the hard work that was needed just to sustain the daily life of our earliest settlers. Think of the millions of miles that we’ve traveled from those difficult times, with the intention of change that gives us massive amounts of choices and free time. What now are we doing with those gifts? Are we raising our sights and actions to even loftier goals than those of our first American leaders?
When forming a new country and writing the basic rule of order and law, that recipe was for the first baking of the bread of unity and freedom. Didn’t those early “bakers” have expectations of infinite improvements on that recipe, to add not yet known ingredients, and to do it wisely as they did, with passion and brilliance?
The strengths of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln pointed us in a new direction, building for us a foundation. Would these first country cooks be pleased with the broth of divisiveness that is brewing in our backyards today?
What impressed me most when visiting Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home and a must-see for anyone remotely near Charlottesville VA, was his emphasis on Common Sense. If only all our decisions had a least a pinch of Common Sense added. He also said, “The field of Knowledge is the common property of all mankind.” It is all there for us to grasp, folks.
Many are still looking for the essentials to guide them, yet there isn’t a truth or a magical tonic that hasn’t been written down, over and over, by some wise woman (or man…). Yet we continue going to cooking classes and reading recipe books to find the answers to life and how to live it. We’ve been given them all, starting and ending with God’s Golden Rule,”Treat others as you would treat yourself, or as you would want to be treated.” The answers are always that simple, as the best taste can be the simplest food.
For example, visit the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Take a walking tour and be inoculated with the
dignity of those students who have cared that much to give of themselves. The French architecture, the park-like grounds, the statues, flags, bells, photos, paintings, and histories of the generations of midshipmen shout out the honor in their sincerity of purpose, to protect and defend, which is so different from the meanness in today’s world.
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia illustrates the gift of caring for a country ... men and women who cared to protect it with their commitment to a higher ideal.
The town of Annapolis is a must-see too. The historic buildings, much like a village, line colorful two-way streets that lead to an active harbor, where boats of all sizes are at dock or sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. This a place of artistry filled with friendly folk is a short hop, thirty to forty minutes, directly east from beautiful Washington, DC. where such enmity exits.
Charlottesville and its surrounding countryside is another “must see” for those needing convincing that there are peaceful places. The vibrant green hills that have quite a roll to them made our car called Toothless perk up and wag his tail.
Arlington Cemetery outside of DC and Gettysburg National Site took on new meanings for us as it was the Memorial Day weekend. Over 260,000 graves at Arlington, each honored with an American Flag placed there for this weekend, and Gettysburg where over 51,000 soldiers died, were wounded or were missing spoke of great sacrifice. Do you realize that the then President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln gave his 2 minute and famous Gettysburg Address to both sides of a war, in the middle of the war, to honor both the Confederacy and the Union troops who had perished there?
These battlefields, the city of Washington DC and the surrounds of our capital should be visited by all. What impresses me about DC, besides the fabulous assortment of sightseeing venues, is the thoughtful layout and architecture of the capital itself. I like the symbolic symmetry of the four monuments; the Capital Building opposite the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial opposite the White House (Jefferson being the one who drafted the Declaration of Independence), with the tall Washington Monument in the middle, just offset enough to be seen from all four positions. This original layout was designed by a Frenchman, L’Enfant. Our government buildings are as impressive as any in the world. I know our capital is a place of politics but for me it’s the representation of deeper feeling and intentions.
From seeing all this I question how have we related to others in our lives? Has it been through politics, power or superiority, or through previously held beliefs that ours are the right or only way?
Which way do we act? Do we try to improve ourselves through learning and using attitudes such as compassion, empathy, patience, spirituality? Or are we trying to impress, to argue, to fight or pick fights, to rationalize our actions, to speak one thing and act the opposite, to hate and not to love?
What is travel really, but an eventual travelling within, where we increase our awareness of the essentials, those riches in us and around us. Today I ask, where are those gentlefolk and statesmen-like men and woman to come and inspire us toward kinder lives and attitudes towards each other? Is it not time for all of us to now be building on the foundations of former genius, for individuals, families and societies to be less of a ‘me’ world and more aware of being a 'we' world?