Musings from the Bunker 4/19/20
I almost didn’t use this, as looking at the punctuation error made me cringe. But it still made me laugh.
1066, 1215, 1491, 1492, 1603, 1688, 1763, 1800, 1831, 1883, 1927, 1946, and 1968
What do these dates have in common? Answer to follow…
There are many ways to understand and analyze history. There is the study of a “big event,” like the lead-up to American independence, the Civil War, the forces leading to World War I. There is seeing events through the perspective of the “great leaders,” like Lincoln or Churchill or Stalin. There is the study of an era, like the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. There is the study of the “real people” and social history. There’s the study of diaries and letters, to see the perspective in the words of the time. Then there are quirkier ways. One that I’ve enjoyed is the odd sub-genre of a book dedicated to a particular year.
Those of you who know me well, know that I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive about the organization of the books in our library. One shelf is devoted to books based upon the above years. Most are pretty obvious, some less so, but all entertaining. Here are those through Medieval times (yes, I know—sounds dry, but not):
1066, The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry, by Andrew Bridgeford. The Bayeux Tapestry, a work both of beauty and history, is the center of this telling of the Norman Conquest. When we finally can travel again, the tapestry is well worth the visit to Northern France.
1215, The Year of the Magna Carta, by Dana Danziger. While ostensibly about the Charter of Liberties itself, it in fact is a book with short chapters on a variety of subjects (e.g., King John, hunting in the forest, political culture, law and order, the Church). Great immersion in the 13th century.
1453, The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and The West, by Roger Crowley. This is the story of the violent and cruel clash of Sultan Mehmet ii and Constantine XI and the fall of Constantinople. After this, the Hagia Sophia became a mosque and modern Istanbul began.
1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. Not really about this year, as much as the time prior to the arrival of Europeans. For anyone who has climbed the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, climbed the Aztec pyramids of the Yucatan, or trekked to Chichen Itza, one already senses the vast, sophisticated, urbanized cultures that predated our ancestors’ arrival.
1492, the Decline of Medievalism and the Rise of the Modern Age, by Barnet Litvinoff
I’ll save the others for another book segment. But note that one of the remaining years (see list above) is a cataclysmic event and two represent significant sports years. Who knows what each of these is?
DREAMS IN THE COVID-19 ERA
It is said that the pandemic will change the way we live in myriad ways. That’s during the daytime, but what about the night? Ever since Sigmund Freud began to analyze dreams, scientists have been trying to find meaning in dreams and better understand what goes on in our minds when we sleep.
There are the typical dreams, of course:
I can fly. Variations on floating, flying, living and breathing under water. Who doesn’t dream of being a superhero?
I’m embarrassed. Giving a speech while naked (well, maybe some of you actually have…)
Imposter syndrome. Feeling that you’re a fraud, people are unreasonably relying upon you (even though you possess these talents…common among overachievers)
Being unprepared. Showing up for an exam in a class you never attended; not knowing the subject matter; missing the test (related to imposter syndrome, I suspect)
Childhood escape. Seeking out the simpler and nostalgic era of childhood…
Conversations or experiences with those who have departed
But here we’re talking about the bizarre. Anyone who has taken malaria pills before a visit to Africa or India will understand what I mean. I’m one of the 12 people of my age cohort who never did drugs, but I imagine that the crazy, weird dreams brought on by these pills mirror what hallucinogenic substances must be like. When we traveled and took these pills, we would start the morning with “how crazy were your dreams last night?”
What scientists are finding now is that dreams in the current pandemic are bizarre in a similar way—crazy circumstances, anxiety ridden, drawing upon all sorts of random thoughts. Sort of like we’re all on drugs? It is possible that dreams of this type are increasing because we have fewer new external inputs to fuel our nighttime wanderings. For a thoughtful analysis of Coronavirus-era dreaming, here’s a great article from National Geographic (sourced by Rodney Freeman): https://apple.news/Ac73VE99oRZmhVvaDYQS3Bg
The article was sourced by Rodney Freeman, whose email signature is always followed by the Springsteen lyric:
“Talk about a dream…try to make it real.”
THELONIOUS MONK—BLUE AND ALONE
The great Thelonious Monk recorded an album, “Thelonious Monk Alone in San Francisco.” It’s him, all alone on the piano in an empty club. The first track of that, a soulful rendition of “Blue Monk,” alone is stunning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwgWxcVEJOw. For a more traditional version of this classic, with his quartet on video, performing the tune with a completely different mood and beat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_40V2lcxM7k. Thanks to Michael Lord for reintroducing me to jazz classics of Monk, Coltrane and others when I took up piano again some 15 years ago (and then gave it up for the second time)…
Have a great Sunday and coming week,