En Route (post from 9.15.22)
Travel is nearly always an enriching experience, even though it comes with moments of frustration when things don’t go as smoothly as planned. (Travel writer Cameron Hewitt’s apt phrase is “Jams are fun!”) Back in my undergraduate years, while studying at the University of St. Andrews, I spent some time on European railways to see as much as I could. (One memorable “jam” was spending a cold winter’s night on the floor of the Florence train station.) But there were, of course, enlightening moments as well.
One of the great epiphanies of that trip was being in a train compartment with my young, American traveling companions, a compartment we shared with a middle-aged German man who spoke no English. At that point, I’d had a few years of high school German, and so I piped up and offered him an orange. “Möchten Sie ein Apfelsine?” I asked. And I was absolutely gobsmacked when he understood and accepted the orange.
I think one of the things Europeans may not understand about Americans is that it isn’t that we don’t want to speak their language, but that we have so little chance to use it. Simply asking a traveler if he’d like an orange in another language and being stunned by the fact that my German worked was a watershed moment for me. It connected me with someone from another nation, and it did so on their terms. (The possible exception to this is studying Spanish and using it both at home and in nearby nations. )
I know that it is a privilege to travel. I’m even more aware of that because I’m sitting in a business class seat. Hurrah for MileagePlus! I’m also aware of the rare privilege of having sabbatical time to decompress, study, travel, and explore. I am grateful to have this opportunity, and I hope to share some interesting insights.
I’ve also thought that history is somewhat like foreign translation: one has to try and speak another’s language in order to understand. (Certainly, historical figures, art, architecture, and archaeology are not going to speak our language!)
One of the paradigms I’m going to try on Christian art and architecture is one that I learned many years ago from a wise and wonderful professor, Ed Everding. In studying the New Testament, Ed proposed that we use a simple approach in examining a text: read rest of post
Rev. Hal Chorpenning is senior minister of Plymouth Church. He is on sabbatical through mid-November, 2022. Learn more about Hal here.