“The More I Know, the Less I Understand”

Apologies to Don Henley for borrowing the above words to his old song, “The Heart of the Matter.” I woke up probably around 4:30 this morning with the lyrics to that song rattling around in my head. I will admit to subscribing to the oft-repeated platitude, “With age comes wisdom; with travel comes understanding.” I will also admit that I’ve hit a wall here.

I wanted to write a quirky post about the curse of the tomb of Amir Timur (AKA Tamerlane). Redolent with tomb raider vibes, it seemed like a quick fun topic since it’s not hard to brush off such superstitions. A slam dunk, right? But then there’s that wall that I hit.

From my point of view, Tamerlane was a truly evil man. He’s up there with some of history’s most notorious mass murderers. Considered to be responsible for the deaths of around seventeen million, he was also one sick puppy. But I guess that goes without saying when you talk about men like him. Tamerlane once told the citizens of a city he was about to sack that if they surrendered, he would not shed any blood, so they gave up without a fight. Tamerlane proceeded to have three thousand people buried alive. True to his word, no blood was shed. I guess he thought that was a hoot. I have read that he once built a pyramid with 17,000 skulls in Northern India. He got tired of carting them around on his military campaigns and decided to put them to “good cause.”

On the day we landed in Tashkent, we went out for a quick walk around town. We came upon a park and in the center of that park is a huge statue of Amir Timur. The inscription reads “Strength in Justice.” Wait, I thought. This doesn’t quite jibe with what I’ve read about this man. I brushed it off figuring I’d learn more as we went along and it would make sense. A few days ago, we checked into the Samarkand Regency Hilton Hotel and I was shocked to find his name inscribed under the hotel name as if he is a national hero.

Then, yesterday we visited Gur-e-Amir, the tomb of Tamerlane. In Persian, Gur-e-Amir means “Tomb of the King.” It’s basically a shrine to the man. Kamol, our Uzbek guide, extolled the virtues of Tamerlane as a “man of the people” who eschewed the trappings of royalty and lived the life of a common man. He told of how Tamerlane devoted his life to expanding the empire and working to improve the lives of the people. I suppose his point was that the good done by the man outweighed the bad. He told us not to judge Tamerlane by today’s standards, but to view his life through the lens of the fourteenth century. When he finished, I turned to Rick and whispered sarcastically, “Now do Stalin.”

The tomb of Amir Timur (Tamerlane)

Tamerlane’s grave

Monument of Tamerlane in Samarkand

So, this morning, after having a few pre-dawn hours wrestling with this, I have reconciled myself with the fact that sometimes it really is true that the more I know, the less I understand. I suppose this is one of those situations where we just have to agree to disagree, as trite as that sounds. So I’ll chalk it up to learning that there are things in life that I will never understand. I’m letting it go.

2 Comments

  1. Judy on May 5, 2024 at 8:29 am

    I agree with you totally. The same conundrum applies to most historic “heroes “! Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and collectively, the Vikings!🤔

  2. Pam Morgan on May 5, 2024 at 2:15 pm

    True and they all were pretty evil !

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