Tag Archive | History Channel

Real History Told

historyI love history. I love learning how people lived during different time periods. I want to know how they viewed the world and what they did because of their beliefs. I also enjoy hearing how written history — what we all learned in school — is just one person’s take on what really happened. Not surprisingly, the tales we learned are just that — tales.

Last night, I enjoyed a History Channel program called Fact or Fiction. The program covered the Mayflower coming to America, the Pilgrim’s first year of life here, and first Thanksgiving. The show compared the “facts” most of us believe with what actually happened in 1620.

Did you know the Mayflower was one of two ships that set sail for the new land? Yup. The other ship had to turn around twice before it ever left England because it leaked. Because the ship couldn’t be made sea worthy, the Mayflower took on more passengers than it should have had. mayflower

As far as landing on Plymouth Rock, well nobody knows for sure. In the historical log, there is no mention of the big rock. Actually, the Pilgrims were sailing for the port that was at the Hudson River (NYC), but strong winds blew them north, thus they landed in what now is Massachusetts. More likely Plymouth Rock was a landmark and for sure the Pilgrims didn’t step on it. 

The first year of life was tough on the novice settlers. Only half of the Pilgrims lived, and the survivors wouldn’t have lived if it hadn’t been for Squanto, an Indian who had earlier been captured by the English and thrown into slavery. While he was in England, he learned the language. At some point he escaped and sailed back to his home only to find that most of his tribe had been wiped out by smallpox.squanto

But this man, put aside any anger he might have had for the white man and taught the new settlers how to plant corn, hunt, and fish. Squanto was also instrumental in arranging a treaty with the Wampanoag Indians. In 1621, Massasoit, the chief of the tribe signed a “treaty of friendship” giving the English permission to occupy 12,000 acres of land. 

Now let’s talk about Thanksgiving. First of all, the Pilgrims only invited Chief Massasoit to dinner to commemorate the treaty. He in turn, invited 90 other Indians who first went out hunting and provided the meat for the meal. And no, it wasn’t turkey. It was venison.pilgrims

The thanksgivings after the first one were very dark–not at all the “Home Sweet Home” version we like to conjure up. If you’re interested in reading how the white man murdered over 700 Pequot Indians, here’s the link.  http://rense.com/general45/thanks.htm It’s much too gory for me to repeat.

My point to this discussion is that we all remember history to suit our needs. The truth about what really happened is in the hands of  people who wrote it down, and when stories are retold, the bad things seem to get lost. Worse yet, even some of the good things get lost. How many of you ever heard of Squanto?

I rest my case.

Sleepless, Sleepless Night

city scape (1)A couple of nights ago I couldn’t sleep, so I went out to the sofa at midnight and turned on the television. When this insomnia hits, the experts say I should not let anything electronic interfere with a dark, quiet room. Well, that just doesn’t work for me. I’ve already lain in my bed for hours trying to tell my body to nod off, so, I’ve formulated my own therapy to bring sleep . . . a couple of Tylenol and a television show that has a monotone narrator.

I’ve figured out I’m an auditory learner. I love sound. I learn by listening. I also am soothed by voices that show no excitement. So, History and Science channels are my drug of choice after midnight when I experience insomnia. With my head on my favorite pillow, my pug on my tummy, both of us covered by my favorite blankie, I let the illuminated television do its magic.

The program I chose was called, “The History of the World in Two Hours.”  Seeing over half of the program was over before I switched it on, I saved myself from all the whoo-ha about the big bang and the billions of years it took to make our solar system. I landed smack-dab in the middle of the development of humans. (The narrator made the point that if you shrunk the 14 billion years of the existence of the universe down to 14 days, the human experience would take up THREE SECONDS.)

And in those three seconds – boy have we been busy!

homo erectus (1)Did you know that we actually lived in trees at one time? And when the large trees disappeared because of some climate change that brought the grasslands into being, the trees became too crowded, so a few of us more enterprising humans decided to leave the tree apartment and venture out into the flat grass?

But the grass didn’t provide protection, so we got up on our two feet and stood erect, so we could see predators before they could see us. We learned to make cutting tools from rocks. We used those tools to hunt. We invented fire.  Being able to cook the food gave us more calories so our brains could grow bigger. We were on our way to conquer earth!

After a few more years, the larynx dropped down in our throats, and we learned to communicate through sound. We could talk! We developed language! We could share experiences! We broadened our experience through the experiences of others, and we got smarter because our world was bigger than our own experiences. Then we learned to write our language, and the world expanded even farther. We also did other marvelous things, like learning to plant seeds so we didn’t  have to totally rely on killing something in order to eat. But this ability to share experiences was the one thing that captured me.

I think being human makes us NEED to communicate with others. It might not be in our DNA, but being social certainly is part of the human experience. I think that’s why books are so important. I think we NEED to learn from each other. I think we NEED to listen to others. That’s why we have TWO ears and ONE mouth. We only learn by listening.

Interesting, isn’t it? Listening is more important than talking for any writer. Maybe that’s why we eavesdrop in restaurants and other public places. Or maybe we’re just basically nosy; I don’t know which. But at any rate our ears are always open and our eyes are always observing. Then we go home and write it down. God, I love being a writer!

And yes, eventually sleep does come in the early morning hours and when I wake,  I get up and write down my dreams.