Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Genealogy. Time travel?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” ~Mark Twain

I think i've found something else to go with travel:  Genealogy.  Studying people from the past, noting all their weaknesses, differences, & struggles is a recipe for the same thing.  You can't judge or condemn anyone, they did the best they could in the times they lived.  Some made a lot of money.. some didn't.  Some died young.  Some lived to a ripe old age.  Some died alone, others lived with a large family.  Some people lived all of their lives on the same farm, working the land to survive & raising a family.  They had civil wars, blights, legal problems, & religious views.  They had family problems.. cousins, brothers, sisters, & grown children moved in with them.  They took in orphans.  They cared for their elderly parents.  They buried a lot of people.. a lot of them children.  They registered for the draft, went to war, & died in conflicts they cared nothing about.

These people crossed a hostile wilderness & ocean to build a home & make better lives for their children.  They left the conveniences of civilization, & built new lives from scratch.  They were their own grocery store, hardware store, lumber yard, & shopping mall.  Some were very religious.. they went to church & said eloquent & spiritual things in their wills.  Some struggled with the institutions.  They left the church, then came back.. then left again.

When you study someone from a distance, you don't really know what kind of person they were.  Were they kind?  Obnoxious?  Greedy & self serving?  Generous & benevolent?  You don't know.  Some have flowery epitaths.. they were saints on their tombstones & at their funerals.. but people tend to cast their ancestors in a good light after many years, even though when they were alive they were crotchety curmudgeons.  Time is a softener.. it slowly makes us all into normal people.

So what else does the study of old dead people provide?  I think it's helped me see the living in a different light.  In a few hundred years, a future descendant of mine may briefly see my name in a census.  We live.  We die.  We are part of a long line.  Ultimately, we are all connected.  The common thread is we live in the times we are born in.  Some of us struggle to survive most of our lives, or we die young in that struggle.  There are many names that have brief dates.  They did not have a family.  They did not homestead on land, have a will, marry, or appear in a census.  Some of us had time to ponder the meaning of life & reflect on our existence.  We arrived at various religious & philosophical views.  We each are the sum of our experiences, backgrounds, genenic makeup, & cultural surroundings.  Some of us fought with those limitations & imposed our will on the process, changing things for future generations.  But the acorn does not fall too far from the tree.  We are the sum of our ancestors.

So let us live.  Let us value & cherish the time we are alive.  We should appreciate the uniqueness & differences among us.  None of us has a clear view of eternity.  We might see glimpses of possiblities or hopes, but we do  not know what lies ahead, nor can we make sense of what lies behind.  We should enjoy the life we have.  It will not come this way again.  And maybe we should get out more & travel, too!

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