What’s That?

I despair of human progress if, five hundred years in the future, they are digging at all. I imagine they will go at the surface of the earth with devices we cannot imagine that see through the ground and register aeons of detritus and lives. The earth is a low-rise apartment building housing past generations.

My parents used to joke about how future archeologists would think toilets were household shrines — but that would depend on the philosophical and religious bent of the people doing the excavation. If they themselves have no house hold shrines and have toilets, then they’ll see toilets.

The point; it will be hard for them to see anything. They will be as crippled as we are, hobbled by their own knowledge, experience and expectations.

This interests me right now for two reasons. I’ve been packing to move and that is a kind of “self-archeology.” The other is I’ve recently watched the Nova series “Becoming Human” and I’ve been amazed by the discoveries and dismayed by the assumptions — it seems to me that things are fixed as facts that might not be facts at all — such as all humans started in Africa. What if that’s not true? It very likely IS true but what if it isn’t?

Involved in these two directions of archeology it hit me that the closer one is to the findings (my dad’s high school journals and letters to his cousin) the better able one is to find the truth — but even then, it’s pretty doubtful I’ll know it 100%. But (in the case of my dad’s notebooks) his inability to know the future intersected with my knowledge of his future in this little poem/paragraph he wrote about growing old. He wrote it when he was 19. He died at 45 of MS.  Knowing that, I could read this a couple of ways — one of which is as a presentiment of his actual fate.


As for the other archeology? The paleoarcheology?  In the NOVA series I learned that no, there was no cross-breeding between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, then my research shows that in the interval between the production of the series and now, scientists found that yes, there was. That right there would make me — were I a scientist — very careful about making any statements. Their bias toward Homo Sapien is also very apparent in the series. We are the “most advanced species on the planet.” What does advanced mean? And, how in hell can we judge that OURSELVES?

So maybe those future archeologists will have transcended the (extremely primitive) need to assert their “bestestness” and look at the artifacts of my very simple life with curiosity about the person who lived it. Maybe they will use their magic equipment to reconstruct the life of someone who didn’t do much of any importance but tried in her own small way to “affect the quality of the day.” Maybe by then human beings will have learned that THAT is how the species progresses and will be curious to know how all the “ordinary” people strove in that direction back in 2014. That is what interests me when I am doing research for my novels. “All well and good, Mr. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, but what about the people whose names we do not know?” We think a lot of Homer for writing the Illiad and the Odyssey but we owe most of our thanks to generations of anonymous story-tellers who repeated the stories told in those epics over and over and over, the “vast chain of dancers,” described by Aristotle.



10 thoughts on “What’s That?

  1. This is a TOTALLY EXCELLENT post – far too good for a Daily Prompt. Honestly, Martha – I don’t know why you bother !
    But then I think again: your life is pretty chaotic right now, and you don’t have time to be the writer you are without being given something to write about. So … once you’re settled in again and your life back to that of a not-on-the-point-of-moving person, I look forward to your writing your own thoughts.
    Unlike me: I am not a writer, no I’m not. I don’t have any.

    • Thank you! I like the Daily Prompt because it takes me out of my own head and some of the best stories I’ve written ever came from a Daily Prompt – even when (as most of the time) the prompts are non-starters. That’s good for me right now exactly because of the state of flux I’m in. I do it first thing in the morning, with my coffee. It’s a very useful tool for grounding me and starting my (now strange) days. I’m really curious to know what and who I’m going to be after this is over having given up my work and my house — two major anchors of identity.

      • You are so brave. I wish you everything good with this. And don’t worry; although they SEEM like anchors of identity, you won’t float away on the tide … They’re actually only things that your very real identity had dropped a couple of bowers on to. 🙂

      • Yeah, it’s weird during the most angst ridden moments of this (so far) I’ve started a whole section section to my novel and worked on it continuously. That seems like the most real thing in my life — that and my dogs. I realized through this that I just want an affordable home where I can work peacefully and a place for my dogs. It’s difficult to communicate that, as I’ve said before. Most people seem to have different aspirations.

      • We are DEEPLY divided on this, Martha: what *I* want is somewhere I can live peacefully and a place for my cat.
        Peace has become incredibly important …

  2. Icons and ‘important’ structures, discoveries etc usually leave me cold. The day-to-day lives of people, though – far more interesting.
    Moving is hell, but it does concentrate you to the essence of who you are. Like other people’s deaths – they reorganise the priorities.

    • Absolutely. I’m feeling daily a greater sense of liberation from all the “fardles” and I think when I finally drive away from here, I will just feel free.

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