Final ThoughtsMay 5 in the United Kingdom
We are back in the Western Hemisphere, on the 141st day, in the last of 60 ports, on a trip we never thought we would take. We are in London. This is the last post I will make on our World Cruise page, and it is difficult to describe how this adventure has changed me. I will begin by thanking the officers and crew of the Viking Sun for their impeccable service and dedication to the comfort and well being of us passengers. They have done everything humanly possible to meet not only our needs but also our slightest wants. It has been interesting to be treated like royalty, but tomorrow the wonderful business of being a regular human being resumes. I will be going back to a world where, when I drop the bath towel on the floor, it stays there. That’s not bad either. Even so, Viking Ocean Cruises has done an excellent job.
Every place where Viking took us was interesting. Some were more entertaining than others, but often the others were more instructive. I have learned of the almost limitless adaptability of human beings. They have adjusted to every possible diet, climate, and government. They are extremely flexible in using the tools, resources and terrain available to them.
I have learned that countries change over time. Vietnam now is not the same nation it was when I went there as a soldier in 1971. The people, the economy, the culture—all are different. About the only thing that has not changed is the language. At one time China and Cambodia were poor, agrarian orphans, crippled by politics. Singapore was a tropical backwater. Not anymore.
I learned that my own country has changed over time too. This voyage has allowed me, as it were, to see the United States from a distance. I keep hearing my countrymen saying that if America doesn’t wake up, the rest of the world will one day pass the U.S. I learned on this voyage that in many ways, the rest of the world already has. I love America, but I have concerns about her future.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that the people of the world genuinely like each other. Practically every person we met smiled at us, waved, tried to talk to us, not always successfully, because of language differences. However there was always a grin, a happy look, a glint in the eye, even from an old woman struggling under a load of vegetables in Bali. Our differences in language, income, color, and religion made no difference—not to her. To her, it did not matter that I was on an air conditioned bus and she was standing ankle deep in filthy water. She was genuinely glad to see us. In Kuala Lumpur a quartet of young men and I laughed together like fools when we each attempted to take each other’s photograph at exactly the same moment. There was an immediate connection when on a Friday a Muslim family coming from the mosque approached us and asked us where were came from. When she learned we were Americans, the matriarch touched Glenda’s arm and said, “I not hate you.”
Could the nations of the world please send their political leaders on a Viking world cruise?
The point is that I have learned that it is not the people of the world who start wars with one another; it is the governments of the world that do so. And I have learned that rarely do the interests of those governments precisely align with those of the people. They certainly didn’t line up in 1971.
This conviction was hammered home to me today in London as we visited the church of St. Alphege and saw posted there this quotation from Aldous Huxley: “The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are human beings, and that these individual human beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own “
Maybe other philosophers have said it as well. Bob Thiele and George Weiss said it in 1967 through the mouth of Louis Armstrong in the song “What a Wonderful World.” Glenda and I were deeply touched a few years ago when we were in Prague in the Czech Republic. We stood at the feet of a statue of one of my heroes, John Huss, burned at the stake, not because he was wrong, but because the world would not be ready to hear his words for another hundred years. A local jazz group started playing Satchmo’s song and Glenda and I both teared-up. We understood—really understood—that this little blue ball hanging from nothing out in space is all sacred ground—every grain of sand; every drop of water in the huge, vast ocean; every frightened boy and girl, regardless of age, location, condition—all are holy. And because Viking Ocean Cruises made it possible for us to see it all up close, first-hand, over the last 141 days, I now understand at an even deeper level that this is indeed a wonderful, wonderful world.Read more