Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: history Page 1 of 3

The Splendid and The Vile: New Read

I picked up The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson at Costco a few months back while I was shopping with my mom. I try to cruise carefully (so that not too many throw themselves into my cart as I pass) through the books while I’m there just in case there’s a book that I recognize…or is about books, bookstores, libraries, etc. I can’t help it! I must bring them home! So far, I have had a pretty good record there.

When I saw a new book by Erik Larson, I grabbed it. I devoured The Devil in the White City last year, so this one is bound to be brilliant. And it’s about WWII and Churchill, something I already know a good bit about.

I started reading just before dawn this morning, after I finished an article in Creative Nonfiction magazine. That’s a new habit I’ve started, reading a magazine article first instead of scrolling through social media on my phone. I love magazines, but I tend to buy them and then never finish reading them because I set them aside for afternoon reading and then forget about them.

The new system is working because I’ve already finished one, and I’m halfway through another. It just goes to show that setting priorities for things you say you want to do does work. First things first! Right?

As I’m writing this, I’m 25 pages into The Splendid and the Vile. This man is amazing. More people should be writing history this way. From his introduction:

“Although at times it may appear to be otherwise, this is a work of nonfiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from some form of historical document, be it a diary, letter, memoir, or other artifact; any reference to a gesture, gaze, or smile, or any other facial reaction, comes from an account by one who witnessed it. If some of what follows challenges what you have come to believe about Churchill and this era, may I just say that history is a lively abode, full of surprises.”

And I love every moment I’m reading his books because he writes this way.

Here’s one more that caught my attention just before I closed the book this morning:

“But a civilian diarist named Nella Last had a different view, one she reported to Mass-Observation, an organization launched in Britain two years before the war that recruited hundreds of volunteers to keep daily diaries with the goal of helping sociologists better understand ordinary British life.”

I volunteer! Much of what we know about the details of the past comes from the diaries, not only of famous or important players, but regular people. People like you and me, just humming along our lives, jotting down notes about out thoughts and experiences. THAT’S why I keep a personal journal. And it’s why I encouraged friends and family to keep their own back when the shutdowns over Covid started.

Social media can be a great record of the community’s emotional climate, but personal journals, one’s you don’t expect anyone to read in your lifetime, are a much better barometer. We write what’s happening to us specifically, how we feel, what we might do, more openly and honestly because it’s not out for the world to read.

Looking back on my old journals, I wish I had made more of an effort to be consistent, especially when my children were younger or when there was a major crisis in our lives. But who has the time and wherewithal to sit and write at times like that? In hindsight, it may have been a good mental health practice to take that fifteen to thirty minutes a day to jot down at least a bulleted list of what happened and how I was feeling.

In my next life, I will. For now, I’ll encourage others to take up the pen or keyboard (the are advantages to both) daily for posterity! You never know who might read those words and how they may help reconstruct the details of the past.

History – The Awareness of Yesterday

Have you ever finished reading a book and you’re lost in thought, so much so that you don’t know where to start talking about how it affected you or what it even said? That’s where I am right now with The Opening of the American Mind by Lawrence W. Levine. There was so much that made sense, so much that I didn’t realize, that I’m sitting here staring at my notes thinking, “Now what?”

I typically don’t summarize a book at all, so why am I trying to do it with this one? Maybe because there was so much in it that I want other people to know, and I know no one else is going to read it. THAT’S what’s bothering me. I’m trying to get all the details about this book through to you, just in case my posts are all you ever read of it. That’s not going to work.

In hindsight, the moment I realized how much I was highlighting and making notes in this book, I should have slowed down and written something about each hour I had read, instead of powering through and scarfing it all up. Smaller bites mean better digestion, right? But I was in a mood to just read over the weekend though, so here we are.

Sigh…this is what happens when you love a book’s contents too much. We live and learn.

I’ll just go through the book, start throwing down some quotes, and see where we end up. Ok?

The first part of the book established his confusion about people’s feelings about changes in university curriculum.

Part I: A Historian in Wonderland – Through the Looking Glass

“Finding evidence of radicalism in the very title of books whose substance is not examined has become standard practice.”

This was true in 1996 when the book was written, and true now, maybe more so since the invention and proliferation of social media. Now we ban the content of books by our assumptions based on the title, and we condemn an idea based on the headline of an article or the party affiliation of the person who wrote it.

“Should their education include the lives and culture of everyday people? A traditional liberal arts education, Roger Kimball has asserted, ‘is unquestionably elitist in the sense that it focuses on the pinnacle of human cultural and intellectual achievement,’”

The next chapter goes into this more, but I had no idea that curriculum had changed that much over the last 100 years. The books and histories that we use in our education systems were all based on the winners of our society, the wealthy and powerful. Before the 60’s, we didn’t study anyone else. Why? This book will tell you.

“The current emphasis on social and cultural history which so troubles contemporary critics is no more permanent than were past emphases on political, intellectual, economic, or diplomatic history. Neither is it any more – or less – politically motivated. It reflects, as earlier historiographies have reflected, the questions, problems, issues that touch our time and help us make sense of the world. It also reflects the fact that history today is written, as it has always been written, by human beings who are part of their own societies and cultures.”

Until the early 20th century, a Bachelor of Science was not popular, looked down on, and not every school allowed it. Study new ideas and thought? Why? All those ideas were based on the ancient texts. Study those. And there were nasty terrible debates and arguments about that then.

Here’s an idea I thought was fascinating: history isn’t written by the people living at the time. When I write about what’s happening around me right now, I’m not writing history. I’m writing memoir. It’s one point of view. Someone in the future may read my memoir, among other documents, and put them all together from their point of view and that would be called a history. A hundred years later, someone else would read those documents and write another history from their vantage point. History changes.

“To understand where the university is we have to understand where it has been and how its present state was constructed. There is no quicker or easier way to proceed; to fathom today requires some awareness of yesterday. In the process we will learn not only about higher education, we will discover truths about our culture and, hopefully, about ourselves as well.”

I would like to create a billboard campaign with the words “to fathom today requires some awareness of yesterday” and place them along every freeway in the United States.

The next part goes into that history and I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

A Reading End and A Writing First

What’s this “writing first” you speak of Michelle?

It may sound crazy, maybe a little silly, but I’m excited because today is the last day of January and I have achieved a goal. I have written and posted here every single day this month. They weren’t all beauties, but they are there. The habit is taking shape and solidifying.

Each morning, I grab a cup of coffee and my book. I kiss my husband good morning, sit down on the couch to start reading. I read an hour, set it aside, and pick up my laptop. I’m not sure what I’ll write about. It might be about the book I’m reading, but maybe something else is on my mind. There were many days that nothing came to mind right away, but I wrote anyway and then…there it was.

If I can do this, what else am I capable of?

Now that I’ve started to build the habit of writing each morning, I’m thinking I’ll start honing it a little. I tend to open my browser and read other people’s work, take glance at Facebook, and then start writing. Many times, that peek at the world colors my own thoughts, and I think I’d like to stop and write first before I do anything else.

The plan is to write what’s in my own head, save it, do some yoga practice, have some breakfast, maybe read another hour, and then open that document up and add to it. For February, my goal is to add this bit and continue to post todays work the same morning. Starting in March, I hope to write another hour, and maybe start editing and posting the previous days work instead. We shall see.

writing first
So rich…that’s right!

And what about the “reading end” you mentioned?

No I’m not going to stop reading, but can we talk a second about Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution?

This morning I finished the first volume. My edition is a collection of all three books bound into one ginormous (that’s one of my favorite words) volume. That makes it over 1400 pages of history. I’m tired of reading it, and I’m pretty sure you guys are tired of hearing about it too. This morning, when I reached the end of volume one, at page 546, I thought, “You know, you could legitimately stop reading here and move on. There is no disgrace in that.” And I think I’ll heed my advice and do just that.

My big takeaway from this reading is that, once again, I’ve been shown how freakin’ complicated and convoluted the Russian Revolution was. So many factors make it confusing. I don’t think anyone can read a couple books and really understand it, but I have loved trying. And I’ve gotten a lot out of my reading. It’s still one of my favorite era’s and I’m looking forward to learning more. I just need a break.

Bear with me for one more thought before I leave this book behind.

It bothers me how much we use the language of Marx and the Russian revolutionists today. I hear it every day on the news, on Facebook, in articles, and in the speech of my family and friends. I get the creepy feeling we’re all being used, and those words don’t mean what they think they mean.

Revolutions of any kind always turn violent, and we never know what the outcome will be. It’s always a last-ditch effort against an oppression that can no longer be borne by the people. It is not something to promote and take lightly. The question should be: Am I willing to die for this? Am I willing to sacrifice other human beings for this?

The common people will always be used by the ultra-rich, powerful, and political elite to further their aims. We are pawns in their world-wide game. We may be caught up in it, but we don’t have to play. Years ago, I let politics go (as much as possible) and decided to simply live my own life.

That doesn’t mean I don’t vote or educate myself. It means that I do the best I can to understand the basics, keep my personal philosophy and principles in sight, and leave everyone else to do the same.

I will not be a willing pawn in someone else’s game. I won’t get angry and hate on those who do not have the same ideals as I do. I will not play one human being against another. I will not hurt others because they are not on my side. But I will stand up for what I believe in and do what I believe is right, even if that means I am hurt (emotionally, physically, or financially) by my fellow citizens or government in the process.

Do you see why I need a break from this book and the study of this era?

I’m not sure what I’ll start reading tomorrow. Picking a new book from my TBR is always a little stressful and exciting. Oh my…another first. I did not buy a new book this month!

Am I Turning Into a Revolutionary?

I don’t think I’m turning into a revolutionary. I’ve always been more a conservative personality. I don’t like a lot of change and upheaval. But I can appreciate change when it is needed and well thought through. I am finding some interesting similarities between what Trotsky reports in his history and the political climate we’re experiencing today.

revolutionary

Remember back when I said I was getting SO lost in History of the Russian Revolution? Never mind, I am totally on it now. Ok, maybe not TOTALLY, but I’m getting on ok. Once I decided to let go of trying to understand each paragraph or page and just read, allow the pieces to come together on their own, it got easier, and I felt better about spending so much time in this book.

A lot of what I have already learned is coming back to the surface from long-term storage as I read, too. That helps a lot.

I’m amazed at Trotsky’s use of rhetoric. He’s one of those people that no matter what he says, you nod in agreement and move toward his position. He has a way of speaking (or writing really) that makes me think he’s a great guy, trying to do the great things, and make the world better for everyone.

Now…before you go all “You’re a commie lover!” on me, that’s not the case at all. I’m more of personal Trotsky sympathizer. I tend to lean that way in politics. I see you’re point; I think you have a good heart, but you’re so wrong. Trotsky is an interesting character, and his story is fascinating. Stalin hated him, so that’s a good sign, right? But then Stalin hated everyone.

I found a funny video called “What Did Leon Trotsky do in Exile?” on YouTube. Poor Trotsky inciting revolution everywhere he went. No government wanted that…kinda makes you like the guy.

Here are a couple interesting quotes I found so far.

“The art of revolutionary leadership in its most critical moments consists nine-tenths in knowing how to sense the mood of the masses…”

How does one “sense the mood of the masses these days”? Take a poll? Troll social media? Watch a cable news channel? From what I can tell, they all tell completely different stories. When we watch, we look at one group’s machinations and think, “Wow…what is wrong with those people? What are they so upset about?” We can’t imagine things being perceived differently. It makes it complicated to work together toward common goals. But then…maybe that’s the whole point of our current news media.

“The revolution was carried out upon the initiative and by the strength of one city, constituting approximately about 1/75 of the population of the country.”

Kind of frightening, isn’t it? I keep thinking about the world today. I hear, “They (whoever they are) can’t take over the whole country! They are too small, too isolated, too…” But only one city led the Russian Revolution, and one small group of men transformed that into something terrible that ended in millions of people dead.

“The oppressed masses, even when they rise to the very heights of creative action, tell little of themselves and write less. And the overpowering rapture of the victory later erases memory’s work.”

That goes for all of us, all throughout time, even moms. We’re in the trenches, man. We don’t have time for thought journals. Those that are busy living hard lives, aren’t sitting to think out a plan and document the details. Once things change, someone goes back and culls through what happened and reports on it. It’s always second hand and written by the winners.

“The privileged classes of every age, as also their lackeys, have always tried to declare revolutions, a mutiny, a riot, a revolt of the rabble. Classes which have outlived themselves are not distinguished by originality.”

Hmm…yeah. I know.

Here’s one more revolutionary quote I found interesting,

“Strikes, meetings, demonstrations, are not only acts in the struggle, but also measures of its force. The whole mass does not participate in the strike. Not all the strikers are ready to fight. In the sharpest moment the most daring appear in the streets. The hesitant, the tired, the conservative, sit at home. Here a revolutionary selection takes place of itself; people are sifted through the sieve of events.”

Here he’s talking about the difference between how the military/police test whether to rebel against government, and how the people have more freedom and opportunity to make these tests. To me, it brings to mind the “uprisings,” “riots,” and “protests” of the recent past here in the US. What are we testing?

I’ve been one of those “conservatives” that sit at home. And I mean conservative, as in wary of change and set in my older more comfortable ways, not the way the media throws around “conservative” and “liberal” as epithets. I’m watching what’s happening, wondering where it will lead. I’ve read too much, studied too much history, to throw myself into political battles against one side or another. Moves spurred in haste and anger rarely lead to anything but ruin.

I still don’t think I’ll turn into a revolutionary. Yes, something needs to change in our country, but I’m not sure anyone is in a place to know what those changes should be. I’m not taking sides just yet. I don’t want to rule out possibilities. Technology has changed the world so much, I’m not sure we can know what will work and won’t in the same way we used to.

Learning Hooks and Summit Reaches

I can hear you now, “What in the world are learning hooks? And summit reaches? I thought this was a book blog!”

learning hooks
“Hush, little one. And Clopin will tell you!”

The reading of Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution continues. I realized something this morning as I struggled through the text. I felt like I was reading random words strung together. Why? Because Trotsky assumes a lot of information is already known. Or maybe he’s writing about what he thinks is the most important. It reads like a list of chess moves.

This book isn’t for those just getting started on studying this era, but since I have some background knowledge, I’m going to keep reading. Occasionally, I get a glimpse of something I already know something about, so I can place the time and situation, add that information to my mental database, and learn something.

Wow…hold on a second. It’s the learning hooks thing again. If had no prior knowledge of the era, I’d having nothing to hang this highly technical and political information on. Humans learn best from narrative, stories of a more personal nature. We can add technical information on top of our existing storyline, but if we don’t have one, those details just drop to the floor and disappear. It’s something my son and were talking about on our hike yesterday.

Books and movies I’ve read and seen in the past have built a foundation for this new stuff. Stories about hardship in Russia, the culture, peasantry and serfdom, Tsars and wars, all give me the reasons behind the chess moves that Trotsky is showing me.

All a bunch of words to say, I’m a tad lost while I’m reading. I’d even go so far as to say I’m bored, but little sparks I get from time to time are encouraging me to keep going. Today, I got the picture that Russia, at the turn of the 20th century, didn’t have the larger shopkeeper, business, and landowner classes that Europe had. It had peasants and aristocrats. Once industrialism came, the peasants’ children, unable to make money at farming, moved to the cities for work. The start of the war increased this tremendously and caused major discontent. Trotsky believes this is why the socialist movement took off so quickly in Russia, and probably why it all descended into chaos and was taken over by Stalin. There was no large class of moneyed land and business owners stabilizing things with, “Hey now…let’s not be too hasty. I have interests to attend to as well.”

So…time not wasted reading, right?

Remember that hike I mentioned earlier? My youngest son had the day off and called ME to go hiking with him (insert honored mom smile here), so we met at a new (to us) park between us and tested it out. It’s called Bernardo Mount Summit; in case you’d like to check it out. We’re both terrible about choosing unknown locations. There are so many things that can go wrong. Will there be a bathroom? Parking? Will it suck? Will I feel like I wasted my day off? Yes, we’re overthinkers. That’s the danger of using your brain…it can take over the situation and ruin it.

This day was not ruined, not even a little. The park we chose was perfect, one I have been driving by for years thinking, “You know, that looks like a cool place.” But I never found occasion to stop and check it out.

For some strange reason, every time it’s just me and my youngest on a trail, we end up climbing to the top of a mountain. He sees “summit” and beelines, and I follow along behind. I always feel like a badass at the end. My sons are both great at that. They never make me feel like I’m old and feeble. They think I can do anything! The feeling is mutual.

There was great conversation, hilarious jokes, we attempted to entertain others and share the love along the way, we communed with nature and its small creatures, and no one died. We’ll be going back, and in greater number, because there are miles of more trail to explore there. It was good times, but today I will be resting…all day. Good thing I have this fat book to read. More coffee, my good sir!

History Book Brings Me to Tears: Breaking News

How many times has a history book kept you on the edge of your seat or brought you to tears?

Here’s the thing; I didn’t know much about the Lewis & Clark expedition when I picked up this book. I have been to the Three Forks, Montana area, about fifteen years ago, on a camping trip with my family. We went to some exhibitions, museums, and historical sites, mostly by lucky accident, planning to return some day and check it out more thoroughly. It hasn’t happened yet, and now my children are grown and on their own. Maybe they’ll take their families there some day and build on what we learned when they were kids.

history book doesn't do it justice
My Children In Yellowstone – 2008

That reminds me of the quote from Nietzsche that I shared on Instagram this morning.

Thinking back on the book, I can see that some of first chapters and pieces along the way, hinted at what the author believed I already knew, but didn’t. Lewis abruptly ended his life a few years after returning from the Pacific Coast. My heart broke reading it, like I’d just heard the news of an old friends’ demise.

So much work to get the expedition on its way, so much planning and sacrifice. All that he, along with Clark and the Corp of Discovery, went through to gather and document along the trail. They lost no one along the way. And only got into one fatal skirmish with tribe on the way back. So much to gain from all that knowledge. And there he was struggling in his mind at the end.

Undaunted Courage is an amazing history book. I’ve never read anything like it. It reads more like a novel so that every day I read I don’t want to put it down and look forward to picking it up again. Every page was wonderful, insightful, and honest.

Honest! Yes, our views have changed 200 years later. He’s honest about how they dealt with native tribes, women, and slavery. The politics of our nation are not whitewashed, but neither are the triumphs and discoveries diminished.

This is Lewis’ story and it’s beautiful. I didn’t realize how much was going on and what it meant. I closed the book thinking, “Oh, Lewis. If you could only have held on for another year or two.” And “Jefferson, did you not know? Did you regret your inadvertent roll?” If you never read another history book about the late 18th and early 19th century, read this one. You won’t be disappointed.

PS Bring some tissue for the last few chapters.

Return to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read” to find more posts about this inspiring book.

You Gotta Fight for Your Right…

Yeah, I hear the Beastie Boys every time I hear “fight for your right.” 8o’s kid. What can I say?!

Short (and a tad rough) post today because, once again, it is my “calling day” and I have things to do and people to see OUTSIDE my house!

Yoga, skipped. Meditation, shortened. Journal, I’ll do it later. Breakfast, rushed. THAT’S how much I want to share this thought with you. In the past, I’ve tried to keep my posts neutral. There is little that I am so sure of that I’ll go to war to force you to do what I think is best.

But I will fight (and by “fight,” I mean use my words and my money) for my right to be left alone, so that you also have that right.

fight for your right

“Lewis asked that volunteers sign up for twelve months’ service and ‘thus prove themselves worthy of their fathers of ’76 whose bequest, purchased with their blood, are those rights we now enjoy and so justly prize; let us then defend and preserve them, regardless of what it may cost, that they may pass unimpaired to the next generation who are to succeed us.’”

I read this line from Undaunted Courage and teared up a bit. Sentimental, maybe. Possibly a little nationalist, but…dammit it hit home this morning.

Our nation was not founded on perfect principles, but it was a start. Every step toward independence and freedom for all is better than going backwards.

When we give away our rights in the name of safety, we give away our children’s, and our grandchildren’s, rights away as well.

When we allow the use of force on one person, we allow it on ourselves.

When we give power to one entity, we give it to all, and they will use it against us in the future.

I’ve run out of time this morning and I have so much to say, with little know-how to say it, and with a lot of fear of expressing it, which pisses me off even more.

I’ll leave it here today. We all need to stop and think before we authorize and back-up the use of force on others, inside AND outside our nation, state, town, or business. “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”

Want to read more posts inspired by this book? Click back to my first post, “Undaunted Courage: New Read.

Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure

Funny thing, reading “Undaunted Courage” the author mentioned, “It was basically a galley, little resembling the classic keelboat of the West.” I thought and noted in the book, “Good thing he said that because I was imagining the keelboats at Disneyland.”

keelboats
Early Morning Time In My Book

I grew up at Disneyland and I’m always amazed at how much I relate everything in my life to the park. Something the kids do, a book I’m reading, a hiking spot, a museum, a conversation with a stranger, all remind me of something I saw or did at the park. It was a major portion of my life and something I never thought I’d leave behind, but here I am. It feels so strange. I won’t say that I’ll never go back. You just can’t know what the future holds, but I so feel like a door has closed.

Do you remember the keelboats on the Rivers of America?

My last memory of them was when I was working there around 1996/97ish. A friend came rushing into the shop to tell us about one of them flipping sideways in the water…with guests on it…and how they were there helping people out of the water, amazed that no one was seriously hurt. I remember thinking, “Nothing crazy like that ever happens to me when I’m in the park as a guest!”

So here I am, years later, reading a history book, and thinking, “How are they going to travel up these rivers with all this stuff and people on that little keelboat?!” Imagining the ones I remember from Disneyland, loaded top and bottom with Mickey ear headed guests with Mickey balloons tied to children’s ice cream dripping hands.

Want to hear something crazy? I’ve only seen a couple real rivers. I drove over the Columbia River in Washington once and I’ve been around the Snake River in Wyoming and Montana. When I see them, I marvel about it. Once, when we were camping at the Grand Tetons, my sons and I looked out over the river next to a park visitor center. They jokingly asked what it was and I told them it’s a river. It’s what people here call a wash but with water in it. And they played along. Their eyes wide, they answered, “You mean all the time!” The ranger behind us laughed.

I’ve never seen the Mississippi river. When I google pictures of it, and the area where Lewis and Clark departed, I’m at a loss for words. All those rivers. All that water. The trees and landscape. It’s crazy. I want to go there sometime and explore, but I’m afraid. It’s so far away and I hear there are tornados. So scary.

I was born and raised here in Southern California, land of sunshine and beaches, but we don’t have much in the way of rainfall. We don’t have rivers; we have riverbeds that usually trickle water and sometimes fill up in an occasional heavy rain. Here on the desert side of the mountains, we are familiar with “washes,” places that fill up with water when it rains hard but usually stay dry and sandy. Trees only grow in the mountains, and where they are planted and watered in people’s yards and along the freeway or in parking lot planters.

Another sidenote: trees. The pandemic and all this eating outside stuff really showed me how few trees we have. There’s no shade anywhere. Even parks only have a few. It’s frustrating.

I’m one hundred and ten pages into this glorious book and they are just now getting started on the journey. I’m loving every page, but it’s really starting to make me want to go on a long adventure myself. Maybe I can convince my husband to take a trip with the trailer, work our way back east from Washington someday.

Undaunted Courage: New Read

Recently, I was reading a book about writing that mentioned “Undaunted Courage” as one of the best historical narrative books ever written, and when I saw it in a pile of free books last December, I snatched up in glee. It was fate that we found each other.

Undaunted Courage
Reading In Bed with Peanut Butter Pretzels – Love

How does one get choked up over a history book? When the author makes it personal. The introduction got me right in the feels. They had taken an extended trip along the route Lewis & Clark took with friends, students, and their children. Driving, hiking, camping, and canoeing.

“We canoed the river at every stop. Each night, around the campfire, we would read aloud from the journals.”

“Around the campfire we took turns enumerating the reasons we loved our country (not so easy to do with young people in 1976, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and the fall of Saigon, but we did it with great success).”

That…sniff… Stuff like this makes me feel better about out current time. Yes, things have always sucked for someone somewhere at some time. But there are always reasons to be happy and proud.

I’ve been in the area with my own family a few times. On our first trip to Montana, we stumbled across the Lewis & Clark Caverns and found many museums and trails that commemorate the exploration. We’ve sat around the campfire reading from books we found at the museums. My personal favorite was a kid’s craft book we found someplace that helped kids make small canoes, build fire starters, and make maps while we hiked trails, pretending we were explorers.

On the back cover I read, “Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson’s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis’ lonely demise on the Natchez Trace.”

The first thing I thought was, “He should have just checked Google Earth.” I’m hilarious. But think about that. When planning any trip, we don’t think twice about the best way to get there or how long it will take, how much food and water we’ll need. We just type in the location and the phone gives you the route, timeline, and alternatives. So much easier and leaves us with all this extra time to argue about where we will stop for lunch and whether we will get to see that roadside attraction before dark.

This book is LONG, nearly 500 pages, so I’ll be in it awhile. Have you read “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose? I saw that he’s written several other books that look interesting. Let me know if you read him in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Read more of my thoughts on this book at:
Keelboats & Trees: Craving Adventure
Taking Pictures to Trigger Memories
You Gotta Fight for Your Right
History Book Brings Me to Tears: Breaking News

The Protestant Ethic: A New Read

Why am I reading “The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism” by Max Weber? I don’t know. But it sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Eventually, my TBR pile will catch up with my new system of documenting where I got the idea to put the book there in the first place, but not yet.

the protestant ethic
Photo by Author

So far, it’s a rough one. I keep reading, thinking, “wow…this is dry stuff…I have no idea what I’m reading…” and then come across some line or paragraph that makes me think. It’s like sifting through a 5000-piece puzzle.

Here’s what I know so far. Wax Weber originally wrote this in 1905 in response to the rise in popularity of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto written in 1848. The Protestant Ethic was controversial then and now, but I’m still not sure why. I’m still reading it and, since I’m pretty much lost on every page, I’ll probably have to find some articles that explain the context.

Right now, I’m a bit floored reading about Calvinism and Puritanism. These two religions had major influence in the colonizing of America, and we still feel their effects on our culture. For one thing, I’ve always found it strange how much we attempt to hide sex and alcohol in our country, well…more so in the past, but still. Laws about where and when we can buy alcohol, where we can drink it and at what age, marriage laws, and laws still on the books about which sex acts are legal, modesty laws, etc., all stem from our nation’s Puritan roots.

Things are changing, have changed, dramatically, but not in any kind of healthy way, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back, but it seems to me that we are all acting a lot like kids who were never allowed to have any kind of sweets, running amok alone in a candy store, ever since the 60’s. We still haven’t figured out how to take the reins of our passions and use them to our advantage. How many generations will it take?

The United States is different from the rest of the world. We have a very strange mix of cultures, races, and religions, that makes things that seem easy in some countries very complicated in ours. I’m hoping this book might begin to shed some light on why that is.

Searched back and found this old post, Mourning Political Change: A Passing Feeling. Still feeling it and more so these days.

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