One of the ways we work toward peace is by getting to know and understand other peoples’ cultures. The more we can understand why people act the way they do, what they believe and value, the more we can empathize and develop compassion for them.
I recently saw the “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and read the 250-page companion book by the same title. Here was a massive cultural exchange program that went on for centuries! Fabulous luxury goods like spices and exotic foods, exquisite porcelain and glassware, intricately-woven fabrics, scented oils, paper and books, were not all that was traded: travelers exchanged languages, stories and belief systems, music and dance, manufacturing technologies, and state-of-the-art scientific discoveries, among many other aspects of their lives.
Now of course, rather than travel slow and arduous miles by camel, we have the ability to fly to the most distant parts of the globe. However, people concerned about the critical state of the planet’s atmosphere will want to restrict travel in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and be respectful of what kind of planet we will pass on to future generations. Instead of extensive travel, we can avail ourselves of museum exhibits, books, videos, foreign visitors, and the marketplace as agents of cultural exchange and a deeper appreciation of the fascinating differences–and similarities–we share.