Sunday, July 7, 2013

History and Homework


I've just finished reading A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.  I found it to be be fascinating.  Three highlights for me include:

  • Chapter 2 -- Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool, 1.8 --2.0 million years old.  I'd love to be able to hold this early human-made tool.
  • Chapter 30 -- Chinese Bronze Bell, 500-400 BC.  Through this object MacGregor explains Confucius and his continuing impact on the China we see today.
  •  Chapter 92 -- Early Victorian Tea Set, AD 1840-1845.  MacGregor shows how a quintessentially British object is really a representation of global civilization.
In my school years my exposure to history was limited to three years of Virginia history (grades, 4, 7 and 11)  and music history in college.  I've been trying to fill in chasms in my understanding of international and prehistoric history ever since.  This book plugs both of these voids.  

It's an easy read and I recommend it.  You'll have to read it yourself.  Meanwhile, let me leave you with theses reflections based on reading this text.

It’s astounding to contemplate, (1) how much we have in common with our ancestors over the last 200,000 years, (2) how little we know about them (since written records are less than 10,000 years old) (3) the emergence and evolution of human kind over the last 2,000,000 years and, most astounding of all, (4)  how young we are in the scheme of a 5,000,000,000 year old planet.  It brings to question our lack of perspective as we get knotted up over petty religious, economic and political disputes. 

Besides being recently arrived on the scene, we’re pretty much floating around town solo.  There’s not much happening in the neighborhood of our sub-compact global chariot.  You’d think that if we could somehow realize the points of our collective youth, isolation and vulnerability, we’d lift our horizon, mature and cooperate to better ends.

Alas, that’s not what history tells us.  Maybe there will be a day when humanity grows into its better nature, but I’m not counting on that being anytime soon.  But I hope I’m wrong about that.

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On another topic, I'm between art classes. I thought I'd give myself a homework assignment to see if I could build my oil-painting skills from last term. It's based on a photograph Marcia took last year of her lilies.  Since the deer ate them this year, the photo and the painting will have to do.  Here's the finished product.