|by David Eide||.|
Reading a good history always throws us into our own face, our own present time; what we are surrounded by and how we act and so forth. It's a great mistake to cut ourselves off from the past, from the billions of fellow human beings who have lived before us. Yet, we are here and so lets not be tricked in believing we are less than they or that we don't have our splendid things to show.
I think history must be an experience the way travelling through a city is an experience. You can't help but notice. You are surrounded with a present. You are looking for interesting things. Certain signs are mundane or so well known you don't flinch. A shout. You wonder what they meant by the shout. Where is it headed? What great thing is it doing?
History is both dream and nightmare; movie and utter reality. It is a movie because the acts have all been borne out and given up the ghost. That despised character, the poet, should never let the colorful particulars go by without taking them into his treasure hoard. Men riding a horse. Women turning up their bottoms to some lover on a Wednesday afternoon during heavy rain with the smell of fireash and piss in the air. The soldier resting on his armor under a quiet oak. And did they know of us? Well, they knew things end.
Things end. And how they begin again is someone else's problem. So in many ways we envy the people of history just as, when kids, we want to be this actor or that actress and say exactly what they said or what they became in a situation just as we were in. The difference is that a movie is a total fabrication that loses its interest as soon as we leave the show but history is only a quarter a fabrication, the other three-quarters being very real and resulting, often, in us, the present.
Interesting characters pop up in history. Assisi and many of the mystics, a few of the warriors or great women like Eleanor of Aquitaine. The poet Li Po was pretty interesting, he lived in the 700's. Interesting people are often models for the living, in that movie theater called history. At least know them.
We don't want history to crush us out like a parent with a bad shadow hanging over everything.
When we look at ourselves we can see what the historians point to as the foundations for a decent culture: vibrant cities, expanding economy, as little violence as possible, no invasions, freedom and liberty. It's not a given. We know the bad and dispectable aspects of the culture. We need not apologize at all but then the imagination and the intellect are restless and don't want the still waters of even a decent society. There is always the need for creative motion forward.
The internet is an interesting modern thing, in the beginning phases; a collective communications revolution that will be noted in history. So, we are in something. We are at the leading edge of something and will appear foolish until a good historian comes around and explains us. Speed of communication, increase velocity of information equals = what? We have yet to figure it out. And our political dissensions are muted by the genius of the founders who didn't want a violent political culture as the past, their history, had witnessed. They wanted constant, intelligent pressure applied to all points of power by people who were curious to find out the truth and involved enough to want things to go on, go forward. We have our violence to be sure.
Our machines represent incredible openings but closings as well. We are in space. We know a great deal and can't be fooled too much. We are fooled all the time. Science creates fantasy and myth. Poetry pierces through facades and bites hard. The acquisition of money is a rational process almost too good to be true. There are honorable people all over and they usually live close to the land. Cities have become pleasant dung heaps. Boredom drives the marketplace filled with dull and stupid things. Disconnected from all the good and great of the past they are floundering replicas of the worst of the past. Are we baboons with money who drive cars hard without a thought to the past or the future? A people who need nothing but to look good and feel good? Everything else can go to hell. Perhaps we have fallen far because our history has eluded us and driven something inhuman through us. It's part of the delight of speculation at any rate.
Everything done by peoples in history is done by us with compound interest.
Avoiding the term "we must", we say we're better off to look as deep into the future as we connect with the past. Our responsibility is the future not the past.
© 2016 David Eide. All rights reserved.