I haven’t slept well the past few nights. I fall asleep no problem, but I wake up around 3:00 and begin to fret. No, it isn’t about money, or my health or climate change or whether Iran will get the bomb or any of a dozen other things worthy of concern. I fret because my darling daughter and I are involved in a squabble. She believes a certain event happened one way, I think it happened another way. There is no one who can tell us how it went because the other witnesses are not available.
Memory is a tricky thing. Sometimes my sons relay things they remember and I have a different memory and I laugh and say, I don’t know why I recall certain aspects of that situation and you recall others. Although my youngest son has a fanciful imagination, I have stopped thinking he is always wrong and I am right. His memory is his memory. Still, isn’t it strange how our minds lock on certain aspects of a past and others see a different past?. The fact that we recall events differently is not serious as long as one of us is not holding a deep resentment of some kind. I have discovered resentments have a way of casting events negatively.
We can see and hear some of this in our current silly season, our election process. Someone can make a comment and you will find a dozen points of view about the event you witnessed. These myriad interpretations require we listen carefully and form our own opinion of what we heard or saw. Many others are certainly ready to tell you their opinion.
Of course, we all look at something from our own point of view, a POV formed by what we expose ourselves to. One reason I continue to listen attentively to what historians call ‘primary’ information, and read, read, read, is because I don’t want some talking head on TV or in the news media to tell me what to think. I have decided their reflections and recollections are no better informed than mine.
I have now listened to Bill Moyers interview with Dr. Haidt, the social psychologist Bill interviewed last Sunday, several times, trying to grasp what Haidt is saying. I hear something different every time I listen to the interview. I know this means I have applied filters and I am “hearing” what I want to hear each time. Trying to get into someone else’s head even if they are sharing their thoughts is a challenge indeed.
Simon Schama, one of my favorite historians before I became a history major, wrote a fascinating pop history entitled DEAD CERTAINTIES (UNWARRANTED SPECULATIONS). In it he shows the reader how some event in history, say Wolfe’s conquest of Canada, was taken over by the cultural media of the day (a monumental painting by West) and turned into a completely different story from what he says actually happened.
But the matter doesn’t end there. Other historians have and will cast doubt on Schama’s work. That’s what historians do best, argue about what happened.
Perhaps we have always had this problem? When the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were joined each had its own version of the creation story. Wise elders of the time combined the two narratives and today you have a very interesting book called Genesis.
But the story does not end there. As any student of the Bible knows, the book has been translated many times and in each new version, words are used that might not have been used in the previous version. An example which springs to mind from the New Testament is when the translators replaced the word charity with the word Love in one of Paul’s letters. Paul didn’t change his story, the translators changed their story. I think love and charity are two different things and they chose love.
I have believed in Love for a very long time. My first realization of what Love meant to me came in the 1960s. No, it wasn’t a hippie revelation, nor was it the Hare Krishna fellow in saffron robes. The word came to me because I had a crises of spirit and asked my Higher Power for help. Everything I had believed in up to that point crumbled around me. The one thought I could cling to was “I know I love my children.” This made Love real for me. I thought about Love for a long time and finally realized true Love was unconditional. (Teenagers will help you get there.)
David and I used to say of our wayward dog Max, “We don’t love him because he does what we want him to do, we just love him.” Loving someone (For David and me, dogs are people too.) involves accepting that at times, you won’t see things the same way they do. But you love them anyway. I’m glad the translators changed that word from charity to love. It made a world of difference for me.