Friday, July 6, 2007

The Original?

Salams from London!

My short visit here started out with a sleepless flight, getting lost on the streets of London then finally sleeping for a few hours. While its been an adventure I'm really starting to enjoy the trip.

Seeing London for the first time in so many years is...odd. The tube (or subway) reminds me so much of New York, the small streets are like those of modern Istanbul and the buildings are eerily similar to those of my Georgetown campus. But much of London came before these places. So the question then is everything else a macrocosm of one characteristic of London? Or is London simply one knot on the string of history, part of a long line of historic cities?

What, if anything, is the "original"?

In consulting we're taught to examine other models and adjust it according to the current situation. Artists often speak of the building, painting or being that inspired their work. Does the same speak true of human civilization? Are we inspired to duplicate that which we see around us as its the only paradigm we know?

But the streets of London don't remind me of the streets of Washington, DC; the building I'm in doesn't bear any resemblance to the small stores in my hometown. Perhaps each generation uses the past as its clay, molds it, and passes it on to the future generations to add their own creative twists.

So what does that say of the past? Is it simply mailable material we use to shape the future? Or is there much to be learned before daring to alter that which so many before you have worked to create?

From my own studies, Muslims swing back and forth between the two extremes: reverence for the past, full faith in the future. But no reverence for the past is dangerous; scholars before us did not write their opinions out of thin air. Their reasoning, thought process and knowledge base is well worth examining. Without a connection to the past we simply run into the future without a map to understand how we got there. But complete attachment to the past leaves no room for adopting as circumstances and preconditions change.

Sorry for the existential, "Catcher in the Rye" style writing; that's what little sleep will do :)

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