With my days abroad numbered and in a decrescendo, I leave you with an inquiry; for centuries if not longer we’ve utilized this concept of ‘progress’ to underscore all of the achievements we accomplished. Yet, if we look at the concept ontologically, there’s a sense of the Nietzsche’s Apollonian illusion; that we’ve created ‘progress’ for ourselves to endure the randomness of our world and to justify whatever atrocities result. It becomes a convenient excuse that is easily explained by pointing to all of the material goods we’ve produced, yet ignores the existential component of our lives. For all the ‘stuff’ we have, we’ve neglected ourselves in the process. Thus, are we progressing or regressing, and in what way?
With the end of my time abroad fast approaching and final assessments piling up, it becomes a good time to step back and reflect on my experience abroad. At times it feels scarcely real; a pleasant dream I’ll wake from in the reality that is a residence hall bed. Whisking from country to country with only boundless curiosity to go on, trying new foods and exposing myself as a tourist on multiple occasions, my time abroad was a glorious mess, a smorgasbord of experiences pieced together by hundreds of photos and dozens of traveling companions. Over a dozen countries visited, ballooning a once listless repertoire into something far more substantial; no longer is my scope limited to the North America. Perhaps more important is the new knowledge acquired; academic jargon often dismissed leading to greater introspection as I uncovered what it meant to be a tourist in the 21st century while pondering where this world is headed. Logic is the way it seems, but a place at the table should be reserved for a deeper existential understanding; science isn’t everything. Now the task is to take what I learned and disseminate it; no small task as I continue to grapple with questions that my academic time abroad has given me.
As promised, here are some photos I took while on my long study tour in Greece. It was an experience going from the gargantuan Athens to the tiny, mountainside town of Delphi. At the Acropolis, the absence of the gods was felt acutely, the massive sprawl of tourists and the incessant snap of phone cameras driving away the sense of sacredness.
Yet, this feeling of malcontent dissipated on the island of Aegina at the Temple of Aphaia. There we, the educational tourists, had the space virtually to ourselves. The magnificent 360 degree view of sea, island and forest was the benefit of the temple’s exalted space. Within this location I could finally think as we began of journey with Heidegger. Yet, this was not the most overwhelming place; that would be the temple of Poseidon in Sounion. Accompanied once more by Heidegger’s writings from fifty years earlier, one felt the magnitude of the place and understand why the temple was situated in this location. Fitting was a potent wind sweeping across the rocky outcrop, it’s chilly embrace soothing; a sign the divine hadn’t fled this place.
A month from now, the grand European adventure will draw to a close; a realization that seems scarcely conceivable when August feels only a few moments ago. Nevertheless, it’s rapidly approaching. The next few weeks hold many assessments in their grasp, from exams to papers to presentations, all aligning as the end beckons. With the return from Athens and the Greek countryside, this reality becomes all the more tangible; even now, my time abroad going from country to country while uncovering the ancient past feels like a dream, one that requires me pinching myself to ensure its validity. Look forward to a future post with the pictures from the various towns and cities visited within Greece, as well as the breathtaking views they revealed to me as I traversed the mountainous landscape.
The travel week is upon us; six days with my core course in another European nation. Fittingly, we are headed to the birthplace of western philosophy: Greece. Not only will I have the opportunity to see the places where some of the great Greek epics were said to originate, but also have a time to reflect and learn. It is a time to connect the dots; to understand. There, I will have an opportunity to put theories formulated by Heidegger and Nietzsche to use; do these grand ruins still work and do the monumental art they attest to still have pieces of salvation within? We’ll find out.
Within Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, there are two theses put forth as a means of saving us from the purposelessness of life; art as this means of rescuing ourselves from coincidental existence, and more specifically the tragic opera or music as the key to our salvation. For in his mind, the death of God and the limited, logician scope of science meant no way to properly grapple with the meaninglessness of life; in a word, existential angst would rule the day.
What does that have to do with anything? Well, this past weekend I spent in the Netherlands for the ever popular Amsterdam Music Festival. A time of revelry, madness, and ecstasy of various forms; in this sea of tens of thousands of people, one found a swell of the Dionysian as you lost yourself in the music and the crowd accented by the artistic, well judged elements of the Apollonian. A dream-like state was coupled with the out of body experience, creating something unforgettable. Would Nietzsche find the same conclusion I did? No one knows; but the music festival could very well be a new opportunity in the struggle for meaning.
It’s finally hit me, fittingly at the near halfway point; I’m here for four months. The honey moon phase has passed as the assessments rolled in one by one; first a midterm, then a few reflective papers. Given the time of the semester, it’s most undoubtably appropriate. Simultaneously, there’s a realization that my time abroad is already half-way over. Part of this gives way to concern as I realize the limited time I have left, as well as the applications I must complete with law school and next summer looming. Yet there’s excitement as well, compiling stories of my time abroad and the places I’ve visited. There’s still time to make new memories though; making these remaining weeks essential in their own right.
Oktoberfest. So much summed up in one word yet synonymous with another: beer. Not the poor man’s brew either; but instead good, quality beer. Barring the misadventures of Hamburg Central Station (where I missed a connection because the train I was on arrived late and another where the train was canceled), it was an experience worth remembering and retelling for years to come. Even the train troubles had their silver lining; I bonded with those who shared my troubles while we were ushered to a later train.
The event itself was true to form; beer by the liter and plenty to do. What was surprising was the diversity of age; I saw everything from my own demographic to families, older couples, and teenagers. An air of revelry arose with each step; whether it was a rollercoaster ride or enjoying a nice bratwurst after downing a cold one. That it was an experience drawing people from all across the globe was the cherry on top. Should you find the time in your busy study abroad schedule, I highly recommend making the trip south to Munich; don’t forget to don your lederhosen or dirndl!
As crazy as it sounds, a month has already passed. Everyone speaks of how quickly time passes when you’re in college and studying abroad, yet there’s no preparing for how fast it comes and goes. In this past month, I’ve had the opportunity to visit two new countries (Germany and Sweden), semi-learned how to ride a bike, had my first proper assessments while abroad, and sampled various eateries. Not to mention the number of acquaintances I’ve made through the chancy nature of life.
On a sidenote, I also made family dinner for my floormates for the first time. A tradition in the kollegium setting I call home, my roommate and I chose to make breakfast for dinner. This meant bacon, scrambled eggs, watermelon, pancakes, and a fruit bowl along with the ubiquitous orange juice and maple syrup; for it isn’t truly breakfast for dinner without such critical additions.
What’s next on the docket? A date with the rest of Europe as I turn my eyes both eastward and westward. With luck, I’ll encounter a few more of the stumbling stones shown to my class and I during our short study tour, leaving their marks on cities besides those in the German heartland. Expect pictures in the near future of my upcoming sojourns.
Till next time,