Post details: BlogTalkers: The Curse of Being a Historian...

08/19/07

Permalink 08:05:43 am, by Email , 1460 words   English (CA)
Categories: BlogTalkers

BlogTalkers: The Curse of Being a Historian...

BlogTalkers!

This week's question/request...

What historical time period would you most like to visit? Why?

Catching Time (Time Flies)

Y'know how often we've been asked this...? Y'know how often we've asked this of others?

I hate to take this literally, but I can't take it otherwise... it's a curse.

Well, once I take into consideration that I want my visit to be a peaceable one, that limits my options.

Because I want to understand those around me and have them understand me, there's another limitation.

Because I want to stay healthy, this REALLY limits me.

Consider this...

  • Before 1400, you probably wouldn't understand anyone in Europe as they would be speaking the "old tongue". Old English, when you found it for example, is ne þæt easy eac forstandan. Heck, if you wanted to hang out with royalty and the upper crust, you'd probably be best served to speak French... even in England! (...and Old French is as easy to comprehend for modern Français speakers as Old English is to us.
  • Bathing wasn't "in vogue" outside the far East (and in ancient Rome and Greece) until about 1780. Mmmm! What a pleasant smell that would be!
  • Remember small-pox? The plague? "Augue"? Oh so many ailments!
  • Dental hygiene? Up until the late 1700's, they'd wonder what you were talking about. "Jungle mouth" would be an appropriate choice of words.
  • Not to be rude or cause a stir... but I know some would say "I want to be with Jesus." I am someone who believes that Jesus existed... but I also except the fact that he'd be Arabic in appearance and, again, I cannot speak ancient Persian, Aramaic, nor is my Hebrew up to snuff, I would have issues understanding him. For all I know, his "apparent" blessing to me could be him saying You've got some shmutz on your shirt.
  • The Court of King Arthur? Well, again, bad teeth and stinky people who are harbouring many diseases aside, he didn't really exist. Sorry, there is NO historical documentation that he wandered around at all. You can blame fellows like a Welsh monk named Nennius who simply listed twelve battles that "Arthur" (we don't know who Arthur is in these,) too part in, Geoffrey of Monmouth (I have his book... it's Old English, but thoughtfully was translated and only brushed against Arthur in his writings really... and his "facts" are a bit... um... skewed,) then Thomas Malory picked up the ball in 1485 (long after Arthur, had he been around, would be reasonably close to becoming 10W40,) and "modernized" Arthur (to fifteenth-century standards,) and gave him some silly English kinnigits. Truth is, there MAY have been a "King Arthur"... but don't bet on Gwenhyver or Guinivere... or however you may choose to spell it... and Merlin, forget about it! For a real giggle and accuracy, "Merlin" is awfully close to another French and Latin word... merde... meaning... um... excrement. Oh, and Arthur, if he existed, would look at someone in plate-armour (shining armour) that way we might look at an armoured robot... "Shining Armour" didn't come around until the late 1300's.
  • Want to go back to Revolutionary times in America? Are you prepared to find out that 1/3 of the population was actually loyal? 1/3 of the population was indifferent, and the last third was "patriots"? Where'd I get these horrible numbers??? Benjamin Franklin documented them... but hey, he and the founding fathers DIDN'T want YOU to have the vote... they wanted only the ruling elite and oligarchy to have it! This way, intelligent people (HAHAHAHA!) would be the only voters ensuring (HAHAHAHA!) that the best person for the office was in... not the ill-educated "rabble"! (They changed this stance to try and lure more people to their cause... it worked a little...)
  • The American Civil War... so poetic and sad... Well, yeah. We did have a lot of sad and poetic moments, but we also had a LOT of blood and venom. Also, most in the North were NOT abolitionists. In fact, when Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, several units in the field threatened to quit en masse rather than fight for that cause.
  • You might think, as a War of 1812 re-enactor, I'd be tempted to say, "TAKE ME BACK THERE!"... but no... it was a paranoid time where, due to my lack of "authentic" British accent, my guys would probably assume I was a "dreaded Yankee"... and the other side would not be happy because I was a "Canadian"... which to them, was French Canadian only. Actually, "Canadian" was only specific to French Canada... on both sides... as the "Upper Canadians" (as we call them now,) were staunchly British. Also, health concerns and hygiene would be another factor to slam my brakes on for this trip. Gen. Winfield Scott, when reporting on the state of the food fed to American soldiers, mentioned the water for bread being drawn from a stagnant pond near a pile of rotting limbs severed by the surgeons and right by a latrine... and he commented he had found chunks of "fecal matter" baked into the bread. A simpler time before microbes like "germs" and "bacteria"!

I guess, for me, this limits my "time travelling" to safer moments in the late Victorian era to modern times... and I'm not THAT interested.

...well, save maybe ONE lonely instance...

I've often said that I would love to be a witness to the explosion of the first atomic bomb in Alamagordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

Legend has it that while watching the explosion, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who was spearheading the project, realised what he had created... and quoted from the Hindu scriptures...

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

As he put it later... We knew the world would not be the same.

I am a student of the human condition... and to look into the face of the man who completely understood that he had just helped create the first weapon of absolute global destruction must have been a sight to see... Oppenheimer, after the war, became a staunch peace advocate. His advocacy of not developing the more powerful hydrogen bomb was viewed as "Communist Sympathies" and his security clearance and livelihood was removed. For the record, and for those who wish to correct me, he did have "friends" who were communists... from his work in the Anti-Facist movement in the 1930's. It was a convenient piece of evidence to get him out of the way.

He spent the rest of his life writing books on intellectual ethics and morality.

...that said, this "moment" I've picked is a shaky one too... after all, MOST of the people that witnessed the explosion passed away from forms of cancer... and being irradiated just to watch a man's realization is not high on my list of things to do.

ANYWAY, to sum up...

I don't think I want to "time travel" myself... I'd be content to watch major events documented properly from a nice, safe distance, thank you very much...

Now, if the question had been, What time and event in history would you want to see videotaped like a reality television show or true documentary to show you what REALLY happened?, I could write a book of answers.

A Quick Note: Part of me would prefer to travel to the future... but part of me, like Charles Dickens, would realise that knowing the future could be more traumatic than anticipated... How would you feel if you went ahead a couple of centuries to find out that Oppenheimer's worst nightmare had been enacted?

For now, I'll do my normal time travelling... I go, as do you, at one second per second.

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Comments:

Comment from: ONIT [Visitor] Email · http://incoherent-ish.blogspot.com
Awesome post, Matthew! :)

I'm like you.. and would rather not be anywhere but where I am.. save for brief moments. Like when my son first smiled at me. Or watching him take those first few steps. Other than that.. the past can stay where it's meant to be - and I'll take each moment as it happens.. where I'm supposed to be. :)
PermalinkPermalink 08/19/07 @ 14:01
Comment from: Amanda Regan [Visitor] Email · http://madamspud169.blogspot.com/
I would still like to travel back in time although only for a couple of hours & vaccinated against every disease there has ever been.
Tudor times fascinate me & always has & as off putting as some of it would surely be I would still like to experience certain things for myself & see certain historical figures.
PermalinkPermalink 08/19/07 @ 14:37
Comment from: admin [Member] Email · http://www.doubledeckerbuses.org/
Hey ONIT... One second per second. :)

Hey Amanda... Sue and I are BIG students of the Tudor era... but I don't think, honestly, I'd want to hang about the court too much (if indeed, I could get into it!) Still, I know Sue especially would have much to discuss with Elizabeth!
PermalinkPermalink 08/19/07 @ 15:30
Comment from: CyberCelt [Visitor] Email · http://advertising-for-success.blogspot.com
I would like to know what happened in Dallas in November 1963. I think that was the assassination of JFK was the most significant event to happen in the USA in the 20th century.

Sometimes, I imagine that we have followed his vision of the future. The world would not be perfect, but we would not have had Nixon, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. in the whitehouse.
PermalinkPermalink 08/19/07 @ 20:35
Comment from: admin [Member] Email · http://www.doubledeckerbuses.org/
Hey Cybercelt... Perhaps... who knows?
PermalinkPermalink 08/19/07 @ 21:40

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