OK, so this is my blog, here I talk about my passions.
Now, passions are interesting, because once you start along a certain path, once you develop a deep interest in a certain subject, it starts popping up in the weirdest places.
In the august of 2004 I was in Florence for the 32nd International Geological Conference.
I had some research to show, some people to meet, it was my first big night on the town.
Held on the hottest days of the year in the most expensive town in Italy, the conference was an unmissable opportunity for a freelance researcher like me – well worth the expenses, and the less-than-confortable hotel room 50 kms from the seat of the conference.
My mother contributed with money from her pension to my trip and participation.
The 32nd IGC in Florence was seen by many as the first big international outing for Chinese geology – and certainly the Chinese presence was impressive.
Among the many show-pieces of the Chinese area at the conference, was a huge geological map of the Himalayas and Transhimalayas, a big colorful map taking up a whole wall.
It was looking at that map that something clicked – because if the geology, with a modicum of patience, could be interpreted and understood, my very extracurricular passion for adventure stories and history, my old interest for the Silk Road and its surrounding lands, added a second layer to the map.
Because if the colors on the sheet clearly marked changes in lithology and geological history, they also marked other familiar features.
Familiar to me, at least!
Caravan routes, mountain passes, battle sites and disputed borders.
It was obvious – well, to me at least – the strong, indisputable connection between geological features and human history.
Geology determined politics, culture, economical exchanges and the mixing of genes.
A mountain range determines climate – and therefore agriculture.
And therefore commerce – which it further influences by creating barriers, marking paths and passes.
And commerce determines cultural exchanges.
And sometimes also exchanges of biological information.
And because certain features of the landscape become strategically important, the orogen also determines wars, alliances, invasions…
The epiphany in front of the big Chinese map of the Himalayas suggested to me a new pet project – setting up “some kind of thing” (a series of lectures, an exhibition, whatever) to further explore the connection between rocks and people along the Silk Road.
I started collecting books (finally having a “serious” reason to collect books about the Silk Road!) and staretd making some discreet queries around, to see if someone, somewhere, would be willing to pay for the development of my project.
A geology department, maybe a museum, some learned institution or other…
The general indifference was overwhelming.
Too much work, I was told.
Too interdisciplinary, and therefore too complicated.
And too marginal – who would be interested in the Silk Road, now, in the 21st century?
In the years since I first tried out the idea, receiving a varied palette of negative answers, a lot of exhibitions and events took place place in Italy and all over the world, but as far as I know, never has the connection between deep time and history been the focus of any event.
The idea, to me at least, remains solid.
I keep collecting stuff.
One of these nights…