Monday, February 13, 2012

The Hope of 1880

Last time I wrote I mentioned the desk my great-uncle Dan had made for his sister, my maternal great-grandma, as a wedding gift.  That was around 1880.  My paternal grandpa, unaware grandma was in the planning stages, was just a year old – still in diapers.  And so was Albert Einstein.  And even though Einstein was to later get all the press, they both needed potty training.  There was also a recession going on.  Billy Sunday was still playing baseball and was soon to become the Tim Tebow of his day. 

There were a lot of other things going on that year.  James Garfield won the presidential election to succeed Rutherford Hayes and just 200 days later became the second US president to be assassinated.

Wabash, Indiana, just a stone’s throw from where grandpa was toddling around, became the first city in the world to have electric street lights.

Joshua Abraham Norton, an eccentric who proclaimed to be the Emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico, died in San Francisco. Emperor Norton I had currency issued in his name (it was actually honored by local businesses) and among other things decreed a bridge and a tunnel be built across San Francisco Bay (which did happen long after he died).  And although nearly everyone thought him insane many found him entertaining.  Over 30,000 attended his funeral.

Victorio, a militant and troublesome Apache chief was killed by Mexican soldiers.  His warrior sister, Lozen, and his compatriot Geronimo continued to fight against the foreign invaders until finally taken into captivity and sent to prison.   

The Cologne Cathedral in Germany was completed after only 643 years.  Over one and a half football fields long and nearly one wide, it was, at the time, the tallest building in the world.  In today’s money, the last phase of construction cost over 1.5 billion dollars.  Meanwhile, Uncle Dan is making sawdust in Indiana. 

So the world was not such a different place.  Lovers were getting married, children were being born and people were dying.  It was politics as usual; armies subjugating ethnic minorities and vast sums of money were being spent to impress – somebody.  And undoubtedly somebody was. 

Very intelligent people were being born who would change the world with new theories and new technology.  Changes that were both exciting and frightening at the same time.  But with all the changes, nothing is really any different. 

Most everyone is just trying to get through each day as best they can.  It’s always been that way.  The world is full of people like Uncle Dan; people working with their hands, minding their own business, making their world a better place.  It is moms changing diapers and teaching kids how to think, how to work, how to love.  It is dads who live by a standard; who teach by example that there is a right and a wrong.  That’s what truly moves us forward-backward to the Garden.  And as the years stretch out before us there will be those few who resolutely go against the flow. Those who will ignore the noise and chaos to live at the highest level of their humanity.  To be what they were designed to be.

I love history.  It gives me a sense of the present; to make some sense of the present.  I have confidence in the future – that there is a future.  I know where we are going because I know where we’ve been.  So what kind of future will we have?  In my world, it gets better!

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