Welcome to Alexandria. You might be wondering: what exactly is this place? Is it a blog? Is it a personal website? You might even have thought the site’s author was a woman named Alexandria. Read on, the answers await.
The website is named after the Library of Alexandria, established in the Egyptian city soon after it was founded by Alexander the Great in 325 BC. The Library was renowned throughout the Mediterranean and the ancient Near East for its comprehensive collection. It was a place where scholars of all stripes would flock. It is also said to have burnt down in a fire, yet the Library likely suffered a long period of decline. Intellectuals were purged from the city in 145 BC by Ptolemy VIII Physcon, and a fire did take place, accidentally, at the hands of Julius Caesar in 48 BC.
This wasn’t the first time such fantastic repositories of knowledge had been destroyed in our history. The Chinese Emperor Qing, for example, launched a wide campaign of book burnings and executions of scholars in the 4th century AD.
These events fill me with wonder at what could have been if ideology and disaster did not inhibit the flourishing of knowledge and understanding. While we may lament the losses caused by these events, they still reveal that our insatiable hunger for knowledge about our world, about ourselves, is always limited. As we continue to learn, we continue to become more conscious of how little we did know. As we develop better ways of understanding the mind, and learning, and as we design better ways to live longer, we still find nothing can change our mortality, our being an individual person with a unique, limited history that will inevitably shape our point of view.
The site is also inspired by another destroyed icon of the city of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Lighthouse. I’m fascinated by lighthouses, partly because they remind me of seafaring, bustling ports and exploration, and of lonely lighthouse keepers out on some quiet and distant stretch of land. They are guides to the travellers, ensuring safe passage through light and clarity. This is what, in some small way, I endeavour to do with this site. To shine a light on the questions and experiences that fascinate me, to uncover their connections, and to temper this with the humility of knowing my limitations.
This project is an experiment in telling a story that connects, compares, and ultimately honours humanity’s reflections about God, history, science, philosophy, culture, religion, and the meaningful life. It’s a way of taking notes for my own learning but, as it has grown out of dialog, education, and experiences beyond my comfort zone, it is fundamentally connected to other people.
Yet I find stigmas sometimes lurk around these ideas. Some say that these topics are too lofty and not grounded in everyday experience, or that they’re unnecessary for getting any good work done. They’re outdated. People wonder why you’re still talking about religion and God; they think you’re trying to “convert” them.
To these stigmas I would answer that no, I’m not trying to convert you (I wouldn’t even know how to begin or where I’d be going). I am simply a curious person who is interested in unpacking the ideas of great thinkers from today and the past. I would also argue that it is integral to have a grasp of these areas of knowledge, as they motivate everything from historical change to political action to whether or not you should have that juicy fudge today (get used to my food metaphors).
Or maybe, due to the depth and complexity of these topics, we understandably struggle to tackle them and feel silly when we fail to put our thoughts into words.
I don’t pretend to cover all different perspectives. If you have a recommendation or friendly feedback, then I welcome you to contact me.
I publish articles that muse on the above topics. You will also find two maps. One is for visually exploring the connections between ideas featured in the blog. You know when you hear an idea that contradicts what you thought, and your head swivels in confusion, and you want to know what the truth could possibly be? It’s an effort in drawing out that truth. Literally, with drawings.
The other map is a kind of resource and fun experiment that charts places of significance for myself and my readers. See something you definitely think should be on there? Something that has contributed in some way, big or small, to humanity’s understanding of itself and the world? Drop me an email.
So the site’s about learning and reflection, and with that in mind, feel free to take a tool that I’ve designed to think through values, priorities and skills by subscribing to my email list (head down on the home page). You’ll also receive infrequent updates with a new article, or when the map gains momentum.
If you hadn’t realised already, no, my name is not Alexandria. It’s Daniel. Here’s a bit more about me to convince you that I know what I’m talking about, sometimes, hopefully.
My studies have ranged across ancient world studies, history, creative writing, philosophy, Italian and education. For my honours thesis I examined the question “why do we write stories” through the theme of mortality in mythology, religion and Italian literature.
I have completed internships in a variety of media organisations and co-host The Hearth Podcast, where my friend Maria and I unearth society’s curios and have a good laugh in the process.
I have also engaged in inter-belief dialog at home in Melbourne, and abroad. My travels throughout Europe and East Asia have explored different cultures and belief systems, and I am always hungry to learn.