|In some future time...
||[May. 5th, 2009|08:16 am]
As someone who spends a lot of time arbiting between authenticity and reality when it comes to 16th century England...|
...I used tend bar in a joint -- and the word "joint" is the only one that applies -- where fights were not infrequent, often ended in broken pool cues, and usually started over something so incredibly picayune, like the number of fly balls or false starts or whether you should switch your oil weight and when or many other things that I didn't understand then and don't understand now. And as a horse person I watched lifelong friendships hit the rocks of "how much protein should a weanling get" and bust apart forever...
...so I'm actually relieved that when we're discussing whether this person goes here or there in a precedence circle, or whether yellow could be worn, or are floggers appropriate merchandise or...really, the adrenaline levels stay low and people tend to be good losers. To be clear, I often don't have the knowledge to determine the "right" answer. If it comes to me, it's to decide whose opinion wins. Or to decide whether historical accuracy, expediency or patron satisfaction win. (And please note, this post is NOT about anything that has happened recently at any of the faires I work at...so if you think you "get" my thinly veiled reference to...you're wrong.)
But discussions get heated -- and having spent years married to a historian -- I'm familiar with the waving of historical sources. Some little scrap of mention, a conclusion reached on the basis of a couple of pictures, paintings, documents that survived. And I often think "well, yeah, okay, but we're drawing a lot of conclusions from a tiny, tiny bit of evidence." Sure, if that's all you have to work with. But you have to also acknowledge, that until fairly recently in history, only a little, wee iceberg tip of reality, of everyday life, was documented.
"Oh, but we have this original source book that describes everyday life." Yeah, okay, one book. One author? Read anything lately, written in this century that was written as factual, but was clearly askew? We didn't invent bias, opinons, and making it all up in this century, I'm pretty sure.
I mean, really, when you look at what's survived from any given time period, I imagine it's not that far from a scenario that occured to me one day standing in the library at Penn State. Take twenty eight year olds and tell them that they have 30 minutes to fill their carts with books. And you'll award the prize to the one who has the best selection at the end. And you're not going to give them any parameters in terms of what "best selection is". Which means some will go for a variety of sizes, some a variety of colors, some a variety of books pulled from different areas, some...
And at the end, those books will be the only source all following generations will have to find out what life in our time period was like. How accurate do you suppose it would be? If they were set loose in the library of Congress. A university library. A large bookstore. My house: "By the lights of Andromeda, Scroggins, these people were obsessed with food, disease, bugs and greyhounds!"
Anyway, not to disparage the evidence and records we have to go on, when looking at the past, but sometimes I think we have to realize how LITTLE we have to go on. And I obsessively worry about what future generations will think of us. I live in fear that some future catastrophe will wipe out every thing but the Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh wing of the library.
But mostly, I worry that for some reason, only the Spam will survive. And our whole culture will be judged on that. And future generations will think "wow, they were fat, couldn't get it up and had NO IDEA what time it was."