The hot, moist air quickly entered and exited my lungs as I tried to catch my breath. The rickety staircase I had just climbed placed one thin metal railing between me and death. On top of the rock, I immediately noticed the lack of protection from the 700-foot long vertical drop off the edge. In America, that would have been a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Mountains with trees of every shade of green extended as far as I could see, and terraced gardens and a reflecting pool appeared in front of me. On our journey up, we had seen stunning frescoes and a sculpture of a lion’s paw the size of my bedroom. This fortress, called Sigiriya, had clearly been designed by a sophisticated, intelligent people. It was built between 477 and 495 CE in Sri Lanka.
Almost no one in our hemisphere has heard of Sigiriya. With our education’s Eurocentric focus, some incredible civilizations are overlooked in exchange for more information about the Roman Empire and the Black Plague. In my breathless state on the top of the cliff, I was struck by how much I do not know. I wondered why this fortress was not in my history textbook.
During my lifetime, I want to travel every inch of the world. I want to use my college education so that my breath will not be taken away just because of the beauty of the view, but because of my appreciation for the cultures that surround me. And I am convinced that humes can help me get there.
Humes breaks the mold. Although never perfect, humes departs from the idolization of Westerners and romanticization of their past mistakes. Professor Tamura emphasized Africa’s history, to which I had never been exposed. Professors Quillen and Wills introduced criticisms of glorified Westerners in an attempt to break down privilege. Professor Robb reminded us to return to the abstract and examine how we know what we know.
We cannot ever hope to come to know everything. Sontag warned us about how an illusion of drowning in global questions can take people from activism into complacency, because we also cannot quit learning. Our job, as students, as scholars, as informed citizens of the world, becomes to make the efforts we can to learn more. We have access to incredible resources here at Davidson. We must use them.