Monday, October 08, 2012

Columbus Day 2012

Map of Columbus' First Voyage to the New World

He was a self-made man with a dream.  He was great at the geography needed to sail a ship but horrible in understanding the size of the world.  Attempts by Royal Portuguese geographers to prove him wrong were met with his anti-Semitism.  His journey linked two worlds together, something that only an encounter with an alien race can match.  He was a horrible political administrator.  He was a man who cared for his family.  His human rights abuses horrified the King and Queen of Spain.  His success destroyed the worldview proclaimed by Saint Augustine and allowed for Copernicus to rethink the universe.  The riches of the New World funded the defense of Europe against the Ottomon hordes.  Despite his grave failings, Columbus saved Western Civilization. 

The great book Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus by Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison describes the situation pre and post-Columbus in Europe as so

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .
Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”
Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

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