Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Imagine

Today my guest is author Mark Danielson. Some of you may remember his great pictures from an earlier Friday Field Trip post. He's shared his pictures. Now it's his turn to share some words, showing us the world from his perspective.

I wish every American could see the world as I have, for travel promotes global understanding. As a fighter pilot stationed in Korea in 1977, I traveled extensively throughout Asia. As a current airline pilot, I have circumnavigated the world countless times. While each trip is unique, my experience has shown that politics aside, people are people, regardless of how they dress, the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or the language they speak.

From thirty-five thousand feet, there are no borders, the air is clear, the earth a cornucopia of color. Cities spread like spilt milk, rivers and highways are capillaries, mountain ranges resemble lemon meringue pies, and there is no evidence of war. Welcome to Utopia.



As a child of the 50s, I was taught that Russia was our enemy, and later, that Red China’s Communism would consume our world. But while such ideologies pushed us to the brink of nuclear war, I’ve since learned that the people of these countries and others share the same basic values of every American; to raise their children in a loving, peaceful environment. Interestingly, those with fewer material possessions tend to have closer family ties. In part, this is by necessity, but their smiles and warm hospitality are genuine. Who could have imagined that China and the United States would become co-dependent on international commerce?

With each passing generation, war bias fades. To most, World War II is a history lesson. Few scars remain. When I walk the streets of Japan, I feel no animosity. Instead, I am greeted with friendly salutes by street police. In Germany, I am treated like family wherever I go. In China, I confidently walk the back streets, exchanging smiles and nods with anyone who looks up. Kazakhstan is the only country where I am reluctant to venture out.

Dubai is a wonderland of sky scrapers and manufactured islands, boasting some of the greatest engineering marvels in the world. Determination, along with laborers from Pakistan, India, and Africa, created this Arab-run world-class city. But in spite of this city’s fast pace, commerce comes to a halt during their time of daily worship. This is their way of life, and we have no business questioning or criticizing it.

There is far more to India than the Taj Mahal, brilliant fabrics, and over-crowded streets. Its people are friendly and proud of their heritage. They tolerate all forms of religion, and in spite of prolonged tensions, enthusiastically share evening border rituals with neighboring Pakistan. Smiles light up on both sides as the gates are closed for the night. Sunrise welcomes another day.

My travels have taught me that bias equates to ignorance. Treating others with respect applies to everyone, regardless of their religion or culture. Smiles are contagious. Blending in and treading softly are necessities.

Perhaps because the United States is a melting pot, we have forgotten about national pride, but other countries haven’t. Pride should never be confused with arrogance, though. Accepting cultural and religious differences could alleviate most wars.

Perhaps John Lennon’s understanding of this inspired him to write, “Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No Hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today. You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live as one.” Lennon’s vision may seem unobtainable, but peace and understanding remain great concepts.

Mark W. Danielson is a reality-based suspense novelist. Visit his web site at markwdanielson.com

11 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

What an amazing life you've had. It's got to be an education in tolerance to travel as extensively as you have. Best of luck with your suspense novels...

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - what incredible experiences! Beautiful photos and stories. Thanks so much for sharing!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Mark, this is a wonderful post with excellent photos. Well done. And thanks to Terry for the feature. I'm getting the urge to go somewhere new...

Patricia

Sheila Deeth said...

What a beautiful post. "Imagine." Thank you.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Such a heartwarming post! I love the sky as Utopia.

And, yes, smiles are contagious:)

Terry Odell said...

Thanks to all for stopping by and leaving comments. Looks like Mark is flying off somewhere today, but I know he'll read and appreciate them.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thank you all for your comments. I continue to be blessed with a loving wife, good health, and good friends. Flying, writing and painting will always be part of my life.

Jud said...

Mark: I lived in Osaka in 1972 and haven't been back since (apart from zipping through it on the bullet train two or three times a year), so the photo of the skyscraper was a revelation. I had to spend about ten minutes online, looking at photos of dozens of skyscrapers until I found a match.

Becoming a pilot was the first of my dream careers, soon abandoned because of my short-sightedness. One of my Japanese friends is a retired flight dispatcher who loves to talk about his experiences, so I haven't completely lost touch with my dream.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jud, Osaka, like so many Japanese cities, is ultra modern. I always feel safe walking in Japan. Its people are friendly. Everything is clean. Having said that, it's not easy finding your way out of a basement train station as no signs are in English. No arrows, either. None of the train station employees or security people spoke English. It took me fifteen minutes to find blue sky one day. I suppose if there was a fire, I could have followed the herd to safey:)

Jud said...

Mark, it's interesting you should have mentioned basement train stations and fires. Years ago, the subways linking stations were prime real estate and lined with shops. A terrible fire in an Osaka underground shopping mall forced the Japanese government to put a freeze on all new projects. It could be that, with improved technology, such malls are now relatively safe, and the ban may have been lifted, but I can't say I've noticed any new ones on the routes I normally use.

Osaka is surely ultra-modern, but it also has a few notorious ghettos of untouchables and homeless day labourers. These areas are ruled by the mob and no-go for the police. There's a similar ghetto in Yokohama, my home town. On race days you can see the streets lined with bookies taking bets, and not a policeman in sight. Such areas have names familiar to locals, but not listed on official maps.

A tourist walking through such an area would probably be be safe but highly unwelcome.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I've seen several tent/tarp cities in Osaka city parks and they aren't inviting. They remind me of Robin Hood and his not so merry men camping out. I feel for them, but respect their privacy and situation. Unfortunately, there are problems like this everywhere in the world.