Bridges symbolize change and flexibility! They show us this simple philosophy: When you are on one side, you can easily move to the other side!
Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.
(Joseph Fort Newton)
Today, as I chat with you my readers I am on a visit to the Malaysian Branch of the World Philosophical Forum, Kuala Lumpor as an appreciative guest of Dr. Haji Ahmad Laksamana Omar internationally known as Dr. Halo-N and its Secretary General. When asked to give the keynote address and suggest a banner for the event it was framed as Eurasian Bridges as a metaphor for bilateral communication between two continents, Asia and Europe based on peace and philosophy and as a means of promoting ethics and elevating human consciousness.
Maurice Strong, the first Rector of the United Nations University of Peace, Costa Rica saw materialism and self interest riding rough shod over our values of community and depleting humanity of its morality and wisdom. He lifted his inspiring voice in efforts to preserve the earth for future generations. Vaclav Havel said that without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing can change for the better and catastrophe will be unavoidable. Both men were bridge builders having personally bridged worlds in conflict and made enormous transitions to theirs and world society.
Bridges have their own intimate character and philosophy; built of stone, wood, metal, they can reflect romance, even late in life romance, as in Madison County, provide a place to stand at midnight to contemplate life and its painful burdens or offer a new beginning in crossing over to the other side. The good Samaritan crossed over. Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost took their respective roads, the Welshman on his 30th year to heaven going over the border and out of the village while the American poet took the path least travelled by. The road and its forks will always find a bridge and we can either go under or over.
As the seasons come and go and I get older I keep running head-on into the often aggravating words of my mother. Her messages were calculated to pull me up short, make an impression on me and set me down on the right road. I have a newspaper clipping showing her marching with a placard in protest of nuclear weapons. I was a teenager then. I recall earlier when on occasion I would tell her that I couldn’t do something. In no uncertain terms she told me that can’t, is not in our vocabulary and stressed that hope and life have common bonds. Today, we are two symbolic minutes to midnight from which we must pull back to reinforce hope. To say we can’t is a catastrophic option.
I must have been going on for 10 when I was taken for a surprise car ride. Living in a village with just a few private cars and about the same number of bridges, two of them no more than humps going over waterways of an old canal system, a car ride of itself was then a unique experience. Leaving my village to enter an adjacent one meant crossing railway lines or going under narrow metal bridges over which freight trains carrying coal rumbled. The road took us under a bridge where the road made a sharp right turn but there was no separation of worlds between the two villages. Some minutes later, the car stopped at a crossroads before going straight on travelling down the straightest of roads for a mile or so. It was so straight it must have been built by the Romans. The car picked up speed, started to climb and I was told to close my eyes and keep my head directed straight ahead. When told I would open them. I knew where I was but didn’t let on to maintain surprise. It was not the first time that I had approached the end-of-the-world bridge but this time it was with an added thrill and sense of expectation provided now by the motion of the car. I recall nothing of seat belts. The moving car picked up additional speed to take what I could feel was a much steeper gradient. It was racing upwards towards the end of the world. I was treated to a thrilling optical illusion not a figment of the imagination when on command I opened my eyes. My visual tromphe de oille told me that the road would suddenly end while another part of by brain informed me that the kinetic energy of the vehicle would send us hurtling into sky-space before plunging us down under the force of gravity into some other place.
As we shot upwards the sky hung heavy and pressed down while from ahead it seemed to push back to block our way. We were close to the top of the world in a car ready to sail. I was giddy, perhaps with a little hysteria ready to fall but knowing i wouldn’t. momentarily, the car seemed to poise on the edge of an earth bound short stone bridge and then level out, with sky now in its rightful place, white as cotton with a water course below as it took the down side, rapidly, easily.
On the other side of the end-of-the-world bridge were wheat fields, gold in the autumn sun and a farm on the right with its many buildings of darkly smoke stained granite, cows chewing their cud, horses grazing. In my imagination I was in another world.
As I look back I see that my career’s trajectory has taken me down long roads under bridges and occasionally over then; it has bridged the industrial and intellectual-knowledge revolution; physics, coal and steel and the age of information; bit, artificial intelligence and robotics, spanned geographical regions, the UK, USA, Greece, the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean Region and now the asian pacific region and touched areas of Engineering, Optometry, Medicine, Philosophy, Public Health and Peace.
For some time now the WPF has been in search of a bridge head to Asia. It has materialized in the person of Dr. Halo-N in Malaysia first as a joiner of individuals and institutions and becoming a connector of peoples in common cause. Our conceptual bridge is also a first step to connect the national branches of the World Philosophical Forum, Athens and the ECPD, Mandated UN University for Peace, Belgrade to the Malaysian National Branch, Kuala Lumpor. To the network we can add Indonesia and the Philippines where also the* Gusi International Foundation is located. Recently, Shariff Ibrahim Albani inaugurated the national branch of the WPF of the Philippines proclaiming its vital role; to mold the moral fiber of all Filipinos for the effective implementation of the WPF goals of poverty eradication, education, peace, and health promotion, gender empowerment, environmental sustainability and global partnership for development in order to achieve peace, unity and economic prosperity of the Earth Citizens.
The World Philosophical Forum was established in Athens with a mission to bring about the worldwide return of classical philosophy into education and daily life. Here, Malaysia philosophizes in search of practical solutions to existential problems and the search for peace that passes all understanding. Here on World Philosophy Day, 2019, inaugurated by UNESCO the concepts of wisdom, reason, morality-ethics, justice and individual and collective responsibility embedded in Greek Classical Philosophy are being examined as an untried means to redirect the mind of man, his philosophy and to raise the level of global consciousness with respect to existential problems. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once picked up on the concept of human consciousness when he pronounced a new world-dimension initiative, Education First, with civic education as more important than literacy and numeracy which I first knew as the three r’s, reading, riting and rithmetic. His appeal was supported by UNESCO, when it placed its substance into its ‘Medium-term Strategy for 2014 – 2021 to be fostered within a framework of global citizenship.. Civic education and Global citizenship were seen as the main goals and tasks for Humanity.
My childhood end of the world bridge facilitated a mental transformation back from coal to agriculture both present in the same world. That day my developing brain told me that in going under bridges nothing much changes and we remain in the same world but when we go over a bridge we should expect the unexpected.
Ever since then, bridges from simple and small to gigantic and complex have held concepts of awesome expression and intrigue; Tower Bridge over the Thames with its political and bloody past, the Bridge over the Drina, which encapsulates events over the centuries of the Ottoman Empire in Europe that have seeped into the stonework of the bridge and the bridge over the Bosphoros spanning Asia and Europe.
In building Eurasian bridges the purpose is peace and philosophy I look towards the future. At a time when the unexpected should be awaited and when uncertainty and mindlessness characterize a significant portion of our current moment in time, bridges are important.