Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Christopher Columbus

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When Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 14, this started a series of great comparisons and contrasts between this explorer and others.

Columbus saw himself as a divinely religious person sent by God not to discover a new world, but to “be the messenger of a new heaven and a new earth” and that God would show him where to find it. His numerous religious observances and constant reminders to others that he was a “Christ-bearer” could make one conclude that this mystic is more of a medieval man, than a renaissance man. However, although Columbus might have been highly medieval in his ways, he was also a renaissance man as well. He studied heavily in the sciences of navigation, cosmology, and ancient texts, and like most renaissance men, dreamed of wealth and power.

Upon exploring the different islands, it seems that most every island Columbus claims, he claims for or names in honor of God or of the crown. This helps to justify Columbus’ religious and honorable reasons for his explorations of what he thought was the Far East (India and China). It can be believed his letter and descriptions helped to justify his findings as well.

The way the “Indians” dressed (mostly naked) and their language difference may have also helped Columbus determine he was in East Asia. He also viewed the spices, gold, cotton, etc. (mainly gold) he received as his and his men’s reward from God for his travels. Plus, the “Indians” viewed Columbus and his men as persons from heaven.

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Unfortunately, Columbus’ findings were not completely accurate. The world was much larger than Columbus had anticipated, and it was not in the shape of a pear. He used his comparisons to medieval maps (based upon the Bible and other European explorer’s reports), to constitute his findings about his bearings in the world. For an easier comparison, a child may think that a quarter past the hour is twenty-five minutes past the hour, since a quarter means twenty-five cents of a dollar. So if twenty-five cents is a quarter, why not twenty-five minutes? In both of these cases, the child and Columbus were right within their own reasoning, but generally wrong in the long run.

Columbus failed to fully realize this mistake throughout his life until his death, so sadly, if he had only corrected his way of thinking, the naming of the new nation (America), may have been reserved for him and this country may have been called Columbia, or Christophia, or some other fancy name.

I wonder too what Columbus could have done to prevent this mistake. Had he not traveled to Asia before? Would he not have thoroughly examined the explorations of others to Asia through the current trade routes and observe their descriptions of the Asian and Indian peoples and cultures? Would he not have had samples of writings and languages from there as well? Perhaps this would have prevented also the humiliation that was to be written into history.

Unlike his exploration predecessor, Amerigo Vespucci seems entirely a renaissance man. This nobleman born man was described as subtle, ironic, balanced and a rational sprit. He did not write about or claim to explore the new world for anyone or any specific reason, other than for pure scientific study.

If Vespucci mentioned attaining gold as a goal, it was quite rare. One would think that his less outspokenness of exploring for God, gold, and glory may have kept his head clear and might be a reason as to why his descriptions of the new world were more accurate. Columbus was probably so clouded with the thoughts of “I’m doing this for God, gold and glory,” and was so outspoken about it, that he might have as well just said, “I’m doing this for me, me, me and it’s mine, mine, mine.” Vespucci did not do this, hence this left him better able to collect and analyze and observe the data in which he collected. So in the sense that “good things come to those to wait,” Amerigo Vespucci’s lack of aggressiveness to be in the spotlight of exploration, earned him the honor of a new nation being named for him.

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