Thursday, December 20, 2007

History

I value history and what we can learn from its study (and what we can learn from our rose-tinted view from the present). We often say that the people of the past are either more sophisticated than we are (more in tune with nature or the seasons, better at predicting the weather, etc.) or more gullible, superstitious and naïve. We choose one way or another depending on what we want to convey with our story (or sermon). Let me be clear: I am not casting aspersions on this practice. It is by comparing some current practice with a similar past practice and noticing the similarities and differences that we learn from our past.

This came to mind as I was listening to some of the Earth-centered mythology around Winter Solstice. The story is often told that people way back noticed that the sun was getting lower in the sky, nights were getting longer and the days shorter and the weather getting colder, trees lost their leaves and plants died. All valid observations. For me, the iffy part starts with the interpretation of the observations. The stories say that the people feared that the sun was dying or was leaving would not come back. The people who built Stonehenge knew that the year was a cycle and they knew it to the point where they could build a sophisticated physical observatory to mark the seasons. My guess is that the people back then told their children that the people long before them feared that the sun was dying, etc. and so on back a long way. This isn't to say that they approached this time of year without fear. In fact, I would venture to guess that one of the reasons they wanted to know the exact day of the winter solstice is to be able to figure out how far their food supplies had to stretch. No one had a supermarket down the street, back then, with fresh fruit from Chile in January!

History is a wonderful source for lessons and warnings but be sure to peer beyond the top layer.

3 comments:

DeskDiva said...

Scott - I had no idea you had this blog going. I think it's wonderful and I really love that you started it. It makes me stop and think about a lot of things - especially considering that we're at the start of a new year.

Thank you for being my friend. :-)

PO8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PO8 said...

Love the blog idea!

There's a great chunk of audio at about 5 minutes into the Firesign Theatre's I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus that you might find interesting. I of course can't legally post it, but here's the relevant quote (from The Firesign Theatre's Big Book of Plays). You should really get the album, though.