Thursday, December 12, 2002

No One Cares About The Complete History of the World

The world—well, the U.S. especially—is full of a bunch of cool junk that can be had for a song…or for free. Sometimes people say ‘where did you get THAT?’ with envy in their voice. And sometimes they say ‘where did you GET that?’ with shock and horror.

That is how I separate the wheat from the chaff, friend-wise. When I met my husband his sum total of possessions probably would have fit in about 8 small cardboard boxes. It would now take a tractor trailer to move his stuff. And besides the furniture he got as part of my vast dowry of ‘things that were put out the night before trash-pickup day’ he owns no furniture. Hence, it is all uselessly beautiful (besides the books) junk.

I am very proud of lending a hand in his budding corruption. Even though we can never, ever move out of this apartment now.

One of the best things I bought for under a dollar recently is a book called An Encyclopedia of World History , originally published in 1940 but I have the 1952 edition.

I’m still on Mesopotamia (2600 B.C.-625 B.C.) but I like to skip around a lot.

My favorite part is the Early Middle Ages and after that Western Europe, 1060 A.D.-1137 A.D. Whoever wrote this section was a genius.

Here are some good entries:

“1060-1108 PHILIP I, enormously fat, but active and vigorous; excommunicated and unpopular clergy as the result of an adulterous marriage (1092) and because of his hostility to clerical reform.”

“590-604, GREGORY THE GREAT. Of medium height, good figure, large bald head, brown eyes, aquiline nose, thick red lips, prominent bearded chin, with exquisite tapering hands….His administration of the wide estates of the Church was honest and brilliant, and the revenue was expanded to meet the tremendous demands on Rome for charity. The pope continued the old imperial corn doles in Rome and elsewhere, aqueducts were repaired, urban administration, especially in Rome, reformed.”

Charles the Great (Charlemagne) 771-814 was “a typical German, six feet in height, a superb swimmer, of athletic frame, with large expressive eyes and merry disposition…”

The historian who wrote this (probably dead by now) really knew how to use those adjectives

Speaking of Popes, el c and I are going to Florence around New Years. The best thing for me in light of my sorrow over current events will be to go to the Duomo and look up at the many, many popes on the ceiling. (You can do this at the Duomo in Siena also.) A pope’s reign usually lasted longer than a president’s (unless he was murdered)—and they were sometimes even more powerful.

And now we get to forget all about them!

Not to mention that we can forget all about the now famous--otherwise how could we forget Gerbert of Aurillac “one of the most learned men of his day, whose brilliance won him the nickname Stupor Mundi.”

Does this mean: None of this—all that is happening around us--truly matters? No, the black plague did matter whether we remember it or not. What it means is…well, I just don’t know what it means. Sorry.

I assume when Pepin the Short defeated the Lombards in 754 some Lombards died. Whatever happened, the Lombards probably weren’t all that happy about the situation. And who’s to say that a Lombard dying an early and unjust death in 754 doesn’t matter just as much as someone’s dying such a death in 2004? True, the Lombards sounded like they were a pain in the neck. But still…

I’ll bet this history book of mine is now considered ‘out of date.’. Of course, I’m not sure of this. I’m just guessing that this particular history of the world is no longer the up and coming history of the world. How can history change, you ask? If we can’t trust a history book that is over 40 years old, what can we trust?

I’m afraid the answer is nothing. In fact, everything that we are currently sure of will doubtless be proven wrong sooner or later.


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