Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spin Doctors

See the waning moon above the roofline at Eastern Market? Pic taken yesterday.

Why do we humans love history so much? It seems to be a part of our wiring, this fascination with what came before. There's modern history, of course, but way before the invention of writing, people sat around telling stories. I suspect history is as old as our ability to talk.

Mythology is an interesting form, more a history of the soul of a particular culture than a precise accounting of what took place. I've always loved the Icelandic sagas even though they're truly boring in terms of storytelling. After Jon Thorsson killed his wife's brother, he paid a fine of 500 elk to the family.

I made that up, but it's in essence what all the sagas are like. They're earthy and so human. I think that's why I love them. Well that, but also I had some interesting past lifetimes in Iceland.

I wonder if lineage - the need to remember one's family - is the source of our interest in history. Lineage figures heavily in every oral history I know about, also in the bible and other religious texts. Who are our ancestors? It seems we've always been interested. Lineage has always been important.

Because we humans love to extrapolate, the original impulse to know from whom we sprang opened our minds to many other arenas of historical theorizing. That's what geology is, definitely: the lineage of the landscape. Modern history is a lineage of events, i.e. the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand started WWI. (Did it really?)

Along with wondering what happened, we tend to always ask why. And how, of course.

We humans are endlessly curious and we have a hard time being here now. I think that's because what already happened can be romanticized, and we humans are hopelessly romantic. Or at least, I am.

Glad to have two great books I'm reading, one of them a history of Haida mythology, a playlist of French jazz queued up on the ipod and plenty of coffee. In DC today it's allegedly snowing but it looks more like slush to me. I went out for a minute, but it wasn't fun. It was like having icy drinks thrown at me from all directions. Rude! So I'm indoors, cozy, wondering and curious.

It could be so much worse. Shalom.


Steve Reed said...

Humans love to organize. History is just a way of organizing our experiences and our knowledge, even if it oversimplifies.

I love your tulips! Some days are just not made for outdoor activity. :)

Ostara Hollyoak said...

Reya, I just happened to find you here! Your fictional Icelandic saga bit reminded me of a novel I read years ago at the time when I was in massage school & working at the NASA-Goddard Library. I don't remember the name of it, nor the author. But someone I worked with wanted to borrow it after I was finished. I warned her that it wasn't written like a conventional novel -- more like an actual old saga. She insisted she wanted to read it, so I gave it to her. Some days later she gave it back to me, unfinished. I remember her exact words: "Yeah, I get it...: They killed another whale and they ate it."

Pam said...

Wow - your weather footage has been reaching us in Australia - you guys really know how to do 'a cold front'.
I'm presently reading the history of Alexander the Great and loving it.
For someone who is against war in all forms, I am finally grasping the magnitude of the logistics of it all, the cultural perspectives and the heirarchical nature of the beast, particularly as it presented in the ancient world and cultures.
Enjoyed Ostara's workmate's comment. Reminds me of Tolstoy's "There are only two stories in all of literature - a man goes on a journey, a stranger comes to town"...and a medical quote of amusing brevity -"air goes in and out, blood goes round and round, any deviation is bad".

Peter Bryenton said...

Tulips: well worth photographing, thanks.