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Looking For Babel Part Two – With Colin Thubron Along The Silk Road

Continued from “Looking For Babel Part One – The Language Of Silence”:

Why was I visiting China with Thubron, besides the fact that traveling anywhere with him, even in his imagination, his fiction, is an education? 

(Personal Note: I’ve been everywhere, from Tibet to Damascus and back to the Soviet Union with him! I’ve studied butterflies * just in time to appreciate a ‘Butterfly Bush’ here in Yonkers *, Constantine, a prison,  and war in Rwanda *just before meeting two young women from Rwanda while walking the dogs* under his guidance.)

Why was I visiting China for a second time (First was in 1987, “Behind The Wall”) with him?

I was looking for the Tower of Babel.

‘All that China wants to be, Xian is becoming. 

‘Already the shops and hoardings are persuading you that everywhere is here: Paris, New York, London. (Pg 8)

‘In the Western Market ( a millennium and a half earlier) where the Silk Road came to rest, two hundred guilds of merchants worked. Their reach was immense. They embraced almost every people between Arabia and Japan: Persians, Turks, and central Asian Sogdians especially, Indians, Bactrians, Jews, Syrians (pg. 20).’

Sounds like Babel to me. 


Yet, one wouldn’t refer to Ancient Xian as the Dor haPilaga – the Generation of Dispersion, but as, “ a new tolerance was in the air.”




There was even a Tower: The Palace of Great Light, from which Thubron, “tries to imagine the Imperial Son of Heaven conducting state affairs from this gashed hillside, gazing down on the ocean of his prostrate officials… (pg. 22).”


The Silk Road with its many languages thrived and successfully constructed magical structures.


I needed this trip with Thubron.


Faith in the Divine changed as different religions influenced each other. 


“It was for lack of integrity in the world, it seems, that Lao-tzu – if he existed – mounted a black buffalo and prepared to shake the dust of China from his hoofs… Here in the Pass to the West, two and a half millennia ago, a watchman saw him coming – a moon-gate in grey brick enshrines the view – and persuaded him to stop. For a single night the sage distilled his doctrine for posterity in the Tao Te Ching, the Taoist bible. Then he remounted his black buffalo and disappeared into the west.


“But perhaps this was a metaphor for death.


“Thereafter, for many centuries, when new faiths arrived along the Silk Road, people wondered if in fact they were foreign creeds at all, or if they were not the ancient wisdom of China returning home. (Page 45)”


The Sages understood the issue with the Tower of Babel being a rebellion against God. 


Abraham and Nimrod are understood as the Lao-tzu of that time. 


Babel is the home of Nebudchadnezar, the king described in the opening chapter of Daniel as  gathering greatness and wisdom. 


Babel is the home of the Babylonian Talmud; the Silk Road of Divine Wisdom.


It’s also the place to which all the victims of the Great Flood were gathered and sunk.


I wanted to travel with Thubron to gain insight into the most effective way to program Rocinante, my Time Machine, to take me to The Tower of Babel.



I decided to add a stop along the way to pick up Goethe’s, “Wilhelm Meister.” 


That’s another story…

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