Reconciled Contradictions

In our day and age we tend to restrict our journeys to real places and current events. This is folly. Many of the great lessons we ought to learn are readily available to us only if we look to the past. I just completed an enlightening journey through a magnificent memory palace housed in ink-stained pages.

The book I was reading is called The Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal. The book recounts a curious period of world history that is often neglected: Medieval Spain. From 786 AD until 1492, Spain, known as Al-Andalus for much of the period, had a fascinating religious and sociopolitical history. Although it passed through the hands of Muslims and Christians at various times, the Iberian Peninsula maintained a culture that had heavy influences of all three monotheistic religions. Although peace was not always prevalent, the culture was overall a tolerant one. People could be many different things, such as an Arabized Jew in the court of a Christian monarch. Contradictions were considered an acceptable part of life, within individuals and societies alike.

Why do we struggle with such ideas? Why is it so easy to dwell on our differences and so hard to be more than one thing? I am not advocating the eradication of cultural minutiae, please don’t misunderstand. I believe that every culture is valuable. I also think it is acceptable to become a hodgepodge cultural entity. That is the sort of person I wish to become—a living reconciliation of cultures. As I travel, either across the globe or back into the shrouds of memory, I want to assimilate the knowledge, passions, and dreams of those I encounter. I want to show that contradictions are not an evil to be destroyed, but an opportunity to be embraced.

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