Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Paradigm Shift & The Nomad Architect

Can Travel Really Change The Way You See The World?

 The Nomad Architect - To boldly go where no Nomad has gone before. At least on this blog. Today's post subject intrigues me greatly, especially in the last few years as I have grown to the age when one is supposed to be firmly settled on all important issues. What does it take to really, I mean really, change someone's opinions, thoughts, perceptions and biases about a particular subject? And of course travel encompasses a litany of subjects. Culture, customs, language, politics, religion, art, architecture and music are just some of the things we develop strong intellectual and emotional beliefs about as we wander through our lives. So I thought I would share some thoughts gleaned from my own experiences and the effect of travel on all those things that make us who and what we are. As David Byrne said - "You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?...You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?...You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?" Certainly The Talking Heads can give one pause when pondering the subject of Paradigm Shift.

My favorite professor in architecture school, who studied under the great Mies Van der Rohe, hated words like paradigm. He was old school and thought the younger generation used words like paradigm to mask their intellectual shallowness. As I have grown older, I have come to discover he was pretty much on the money. Great thinkers, writers, artists and musicians have always managed to get to the heart of  a matter through the the paring down of language and images without the use of  creative tricks, faux intellectual devices or fancy schmancy words. One of the greatest leaders, thinkers, and wordsmiths of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill once said - “I’m going to make a long speech because I’ve not had the time to prepare a short one.” He was a favorite of Professor Gettle.

Merriam-Webster's defines Paradigm Shift as - "an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way." The good professor would simply say - "You changed your mind". Without getting into an endless discussion of the meanings of words, let us simply state that travel can cause a paradigm shift or can change your mind about a number of things. But let's be honest - Paradigm Shift sounds so much cooler than simply changing your mind, doesn't it? Anyway, let's move on.

As an architect, I must confess I have strong opinions on virtually every subject. My favorite color is red, I loathe traditional design, I hate meatloaf and I love southern women, especially one in particular, to name a few. Some opinions are simply immutable. But what about all the other things we have come to believe? We all have those mental bromides we have come to stand upon because of our own experiences and rearing, our exposure to hand selected media that validates our prejudices and discussions with like minded friends and acquaintances. We all live in our own self made bubbles.

When I began writing about various travels we have taken over the years and researching various places both here and abroad, one thought kept cropping up. How has travel changed me and mine? I have friends who really believe all the many myths and opinions about Europeans are actually true. In some cases they have become so ingrained in our mind's eye that the only way to challenge them is to actually go there and find out for yourself. You've heard all of them. The French hate Americans. Parisians are rude. The water pressure in London is abysmal. Italian women never shave. The list goes on and on. Let me just say for the record. The French do not hate Americans. Parisians are not insufferable, provincial jerks. The water pressure all over the UK is fine, even in the country. And Italian women tend to be so fashionable that shaving becomes moot. I must confess, however, that I never really looked, since I have my very own Venus de Milo on my arm at all times.

It is my hope that this post will serve as a sort of introductory mission statement to be discussed, or at least acknowledged, as I begin a series on travel in Europe. Each time I have been to Europe, I have come away with an entirely new way of thinking, seeing and listening to people of other cultures.  Their customs, their food, their art are all things that combine to make us as Americans understand both their history and culture as well as our own. I am by no means an expert of history, but, you simply cannot deny the historical rise and fall of empires and societies and its impact on current day life. America, with its history of immigration from the four corners, is a very young country relative to the countries of Europe. We don 't lack greatness or cultural uniqueness, we are just different and younger. Historians have documented the importance of the  Magna Carta, drawn up by King John of England in 1215, as the cornerstone of our very own Constitution adopted in 1787.

So the relationship between Americans and Europe is one which, though it rises and falls with geopolitical events of the day, will never be broken. Travel across the pond to experience Europe, even if for a short while, affords us a real opportunity to become more knowledgeable about the great cultures of Europe as well as our own historical roots and to participate in our very own Paradigm Shift. Hopefully, the good professor would be proud.

Next week. USA to Milan.

Goodbye & Buon Giorno,

D.L. Stafford

Travel Quote of The Week - "People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

Video Artist of The Week - Rusted Root. Who better to kick off our series on world travel than the one of the most unique bands on the planet. They may be from Pittsburgh, but nobody mixes fusion, jazz, acoustic, rock and world music better than this group of troubadours with insane percussion.


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