Old Silk Road
This past summer has been one of great transition for my family. We moved from the New York City area to near Washington DC, changing jobs, schools, careers, and homes. Though at times quite difficult, this transition has provided us with many new opportunities. The opportunity for me to craft my pastoral identity in a new fashion. The opportunity for my wife to examine her field removed from the harrowing pace of the day to day. And an excellent opportunity to investigate where we would like our children to attend school.
Both of my children had attended the nursery school at the church I served. This loving community had become their first foray into the world of academia/two hours apart from Mom or Dad. Of course, for both of them, since they were so used to the church building, and lived right next door, the nursery school became an extension of their home, and they both completed their time at the school knowing all of the teachers, most of the families, and living their life with that “status” . . . healthy, or not.
But my daughter is not yet school aged, especially with different Kindergarten start dates between the states of New York and Virginia, so she is currently enrolled in a Jewish Preschool. This new school environment for her is not located at the church I now serve, is a community in which we moved into knowing no one, and the school is located about four miles away from where we live. Altogether, this is a much different nursery school environment.
And as I write this on the eve of Yom Kippur, I can only state how wonderful a transition this has been for her. She has gone from one of the most comfortable in her former school space, to one of the least familiar, and yet she is flourishing. She is learning Hebrew and is leading the entire family in mealtime prayers, straight from the mother tongue of Abraham and Sarah. No longer the pastor’s kid at the church nursery school, she is experiencing a cultural immersion that is rich, beautiful and holy.
Our son is attending a school that has a very specific curriculum model. Their entire pedagogical crux is to create “Global Citizens” and bases their structure around four key characteristics.
A Global Citizen
- Accepts all people
- Protects the environment
- Helps those in need
- Works for peace
When my son and I went on the tour of the school the week we found out we were moving, the entire “Global Citizen” idea made me think of our LGP program, and the way that the students of Portland Seminary are all striving to become leaders with global perspectives. In large part because it seemed like my son and I could compare “global leadership/citizen” notes for the next few years, we decided to move to this school district and found a place to live that worked for us.
Similar to my daughter’s experience, this new school environment has been a place where my son has experienced a new culture and is blossoming. Among the 500 students there are over 70 native languages spoken, students have regular experiences working in the numerous gardens maintained by the school, and the overall emphasis on civility, is one that is cherished by this father.
I share these experiences the week that we write on The Silk Roads, by Oxford Professor Peter Frankopan. His 600 page book invites the reader into a much different view on the history of the world and civilization than what Frankopan posits to be the generally agreed upon story taught in most places in the West. “The accepted and lazy history of civilization . . . is one where “Ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the industrial revolution. Industry crossed with democracy in turn yielded the United States, embodying the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In other words, Frankopan insists that the true history of the world is full of many more stories, colors, and ideas than merely the one he derides above. His book goes on to tell riveting histories from, Persia, China, and other empires that I must admit were glossed over in my history training and were fascinating to learn about now.
Much of this book isn’t only to educate the reader in mesmerizing history from across the globe but also “to recalibrate our view of history, to challenge assumptions about where we come from and what has shaped us.” One such assumption is that globalization is “a uniquely modern phenomenon; yet 2,000 years ago too, it was a fact of life, one that presented opportunities, created problems and prompted technological advance.” Frankopan makes the case that the silk roads were the system for this globalization to take place. “The silk roads of the title are the arteries along which people, goods, ideas, religions, disease and many other things have flowed . . . Scientific advances, philosophical ideas and much else was cross-fertilised by exposure to east and west.”
Today, the silk roads for my family are the places in which we all attend school. Be it through attending weekly shabbat, striving to become a global citizen, or the LGP, the globalized-silk-road world is what we encounter every day. Just like 2000 years ago it presents opportunities, creates problems, and prompts technological advance. May it also prompt cultural advance, as the world travels these silk roads together.
 Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, (New York: Vintage Books, 2017), Introduction, xiii.
 Anthony Sattin, “The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan review – a frustrating trail: An ambitious Persian-centric rewrite of world history is full of insight but let down by factual errors,” The Guardian, September 29, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/29/silk-roads-peter-frankopan-review.
 Frankopan, The Silk Roads, 13.
 Sattin, “The Silk Roads.”
6 responses to “Old Silk Road”
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Excellent, Jacob! I enjoyed reading your post and could place myself in your transitional discomfort and wonder. The stretching is real yet so beneficial. Do you see a difference in the ability of your children to adjust versus your own? I am curious as to how a child’s inexperience and innocence influences their ability to accept and assimilate.
This is so good, Jacob! I love hearing about your family and their journey – as sometimes the journey of our children is more rewarding and deeper than our own. I am impressed by the resilience of the Bolton family and pray for you all in this new season!
Your post conveys such a great connection between Frankopan’s source and your current life experience. I am so thankful your family is flourishing in the midst of transition. The connection with LGP and your son’s school is truly fascinating. You and your family embody how we should embrace the opportunities of transition. While there are both opportunities and uncomfortable challenges, there is always the possibility to advance. I wonder what is the motivational difference between the Bolton family and The Silk Roads and those who refuse to embrace transition and instead retreat rather than advance. What do you think?
Thank you, Jacob! Love reading about your family and how this book impacted you. I appreciate the global citizen challenge to “accept all people”. It makes me think about how that sits with me and Christians in general. Acceptance is not the same thing as agreeing with all people but it is the place from where any healthy, real connection begins. It is about respect and dignity. What a great environment for your kids to grow up in. Praying for your family in this transition!
How exciting Jacob, for your children and you to be studying global leadership! Just don’t let them start posting for you! LOL Glad, you are enjoying the area, and glad it seems to be a good fit. I think they really need to add DC to the itinerary of global leadership cities because it truly has the feel of a global city.
So lovely to hear how your kids are settling in! Thank you for weaving that into your post! I’m struck by your last comment about cultural advancement. How do we define that? As we listened to the two sides of Brexit in London, I was genuinely brought to question my belief that greater intermixing and global intradependance were beneficial to all. All of a sudden the challenge of how local lower-class folks were disempowered by globalisation and in all honesty, in the affluent west, our experience of immigrating people is always of those most able to fit specified criteria for migration —whether educational, financial or simply as well behaved citizens (talk to anyone trying to migrate with a record!). So is cultural advancement equal to better multiculturalism? If so how do we resist cultural appropriation? Where are we right to preserve our own cultural roots? Particularly when it comes to Christian faith? And how much more fun would this discussion be at the Eagle and the Child?