The Walking Drum by

May 10, 2003

One of my favorite books from my prolific high school reading days is Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum, a story about a young man who wanders the expansive Arabic Empire of 1100. It’s a book crammed with history and adventure, and I’d loved it so much that I wrote a high school English paper and a college Honors paper about the medical, geographic and mathematic discoveries of the Arabs.

Last month I heard an NPR interview with an Uzbek singer, Sevara Nazarkhan, who has a new album with music inspired by the cultures of the Silk Road, which was an important trade route during the Arabic Empire. Nazarkhan’s album is named Yol Bolsin. This is an expression I learned from L’Amour’s book: “yol bolsun,” he writes, means “may there be a road,” and it’s used as a toast, a cheer and a farewell greeting. I often use this expression because it has a lot of meaning for me. As you know, I’ve travelled far, first as a child with my parents, and then as a Peace Corps Volunteer with Erin. I’ve seen a lot of roads, and I’m eager to walk many more.

The Tom Hanks movie Cast Away (2000) ends with the character Chuck Noland standing at a crossroads, wondering which way to go. If ever there was a picture for the phrase “yol bolsun,” that scene was it. I found that ending powerful, for Noland can go any which way he chooses. He’s at a beginning. And anytime you set out on a road, you can begin a new life, a new attitude, a new mission.

Anton Zuiker

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