As a part of our homeschooling, my son and I have been watching a lot of history videos lately. I don’t know about Sawyer, but I’ve learned more about Constantinople/Istanbul, and the rise of Christianity, and the fall of Rome, and just how predictably ruthless and bloody every king, queen, emperor, or tsar was for two or three thousand years after we all gathered together in large groups and decided there’s us and there’s them than I had in previous 48 years of my life. It’s pretty interesting stuff. Who knew how influential the Vikings were in the development of Europe? I didn’t. Now I do. I also didn’t know just how huge the Ottoman Empire had been, nor about how the Mongols conquered and basically created what is now China, nor that the “hot gates” T. S. Eliot referred to in – I think it was The Wasteland – was from the same battle on which that movie 300 was based.
At the end of a 14-part documentary on the rise and fall of Rome, one poor historian was given the unenviable job of summarizing why it is we bother studying the 2,000 year-old shenanigans of a bunch of sandal-wearing pagans. I believe he said something about learning from their mistakes. That’s nice in theory, but I think humans tend to learn more from their own personal mistakes, than, say, the mistakes Augustus Caesar made.
Yet I can hardly blame him for this answer. He must have wanted it to match in some way the passion he felt for this subject. It cannot be that it simply means nothing. It cannot be that it was just a bunch of stuff that happened and has no relevance to our actual lives. It cannot be because it’s interesting. Yes indeed. That’s all we ever really get in our search for meaning – that something is interesting to us right now. The moment I lay my restless attention on something of interest to me I make sense to myself for exactly as long as I can resist asking why.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.