Messages From the Past

The past is an interesting place.  There are so many books and movies about it, and it’s all very romantic, and people die heroically and their lives are very meaningful.  Partly, of course, that’s because films and books necessarily portray an abbreviated view of reality.  You may read about hunger without having to go to sleep hungry, and a view of a squalid 19th century slum does not contain the scent.
I saw a couple of things on Facebook just this morning (this blog should have been written last night but I got too high and fell asleep on the couch) about the past which were quite interesting.  One was a quote from a letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo.  “I always though I would be understood without words,” he said.
Well, good luck with that.  Even people who are writers (Van Gogh’s letters are not entirely without literary merit.  He was a painter, but he was not a stupid man.) get misunderstood, like all the damn time.  We even say stuff like “It’s up to the readers’ interpretation,” which may be partially true, communication demands a receiver as well as a transmitter, but it’s always struck me as a cop-out.  If people don’t understand what I’m writing about, then I haven’t written clearly enough.
The other thing was also a letter, written by Abigail Adams to her husband John, in the Spring of 1776, saying (I paraphrase) “If you’re going to write a declaration of Independence, how about including a bit about women’s rights.”  She was much more eloquent than that, of course.  It’s evidence that some issues we talk about today, have been issues for a long time.  This goes back 2,000, 10,000, maybe hundreds of thousands of years, at whatever point patriarchy became a part of our culture.  Since all of the great apes with the exception of Bonobos (gotta love the Bonobos) have a patriarchal social structure, it’s a reasonable assumption that it goes all the damned way back.
We don’t just need to change.  We need to evolve.

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