I believe in inspiration. I believe in inspiration’s power to bring out something inside which you never knew you had. These emotions leave the longest lasting impression. Events in my life are so much more vivid when I can attach an emotion to them. I get a strange urge to make a difference, to share my experience with someone, or even just a feeling of reverence.
I honestly never knew this feeling until I traveled. We have all taken history classes or at least watched the Discovery Channel once. I’d like to think that I have somewhat of a good knowledge about the past. I know that 9/11 happened. I know that WWII happened. But what I didn’t know was that despite how removed from these events I was, their impact would still have a great effect on me.
As a senior in high school I was able to take a trip to New York about a year and a half after 9/11. The first thing that shocked me was the size of the city. It was surreal, but not nearly as surreal as walking up to literal crater in the middle of all of New York’s magnificence. It was a hole as deep as most buildings are tall in the city. It was the one spot amongst the busy city that actually had a hush over it.
Studying abroad in Europe opened my eyes to a war that tore the world apart. Walking the streets of Germany and England showed just what kind of impact WWII had. London was leveled by German bombing raids. It was the second time that downtown London had been reduced to a cloud smoke. But one building remained, St. Paul’s Cathedral. And as I walked over the River Thames, seeing the same building, I could picture it rising out of the smoke. Rising up out of a devastated city. I felt the same hope that Londoners did when they saw that image 60 years prior.
London was rebuilt. If you visit now, it looks completely modern. Germany, however, has not recovered nearly as much. It was in Germany that I felt how real war is, what power it has. Many of the small towns have incredible cathedrals. They were marvelous architectural achievements in their day. Now they lay in rubble; either too costly to repair, or too costly to clean up. They sit as a permanent reminder.
But not all inspiration is based off of emotion from tragedies. Medieval castles in the Irish countryside, the Coliseum in Rome, ancient temples throughout the continent; all these symbols bring about a great pride for our ancestors. All around are reminders of the marvels that we as a people have achieved. That alone is inspiration. Seeing where we have been, and where we can go. Just because it’s in the past, doesn’t make it history.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.