A vast early warning

Jeff and Matt at Jamestown, Virginia, August 2005

Jeff and Matt at Jamestown, Virginia, August 2005

“A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.”
David McCullough

“History is a vast early warning system.”Norman Cousins

Living in the “historic triangle” of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown has only sharpened my already considerable interest in history.  I’ve never understood how anyone could find history boring.  Its stories, so full of drama in the condensed versions we are able to piece together, answer some questions and raise others.  With the benefit of centuries of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see a lot of mistakes that led to tragedy, and we can always hope that at least some of them won’t be unnecessarily repeated.  At the same time, it’s hard not to be grateful that our ancestors were tough, strong and courageous enough to blaze many trails that made things easier for us today.

Few stories from history are more fraught with warnings than the settlement of Jamestown.  Without going into the details, let’s just say that it was far from an unqualified success, and the failures, suffering and death are well documented.  Yet six years ago, on the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, contemporary Virginians and visiting dignitaries (including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England) attended many commemorative events in a year-long schedule of celebration.

Perhaps the mere presence of descendants who are around to honor such dubious and painful beginnings is a tribute to the determination that humanity still displays when faced with opportunity and peril.  What will future generations remember about us? Let’s do what we can to leave a legacy befitting people who learned some of history’s hardest lessons, and created happier examples for our great-great-great grandchildren’s benefit.

24 Comments

  1. MaryAnn

    Julia, What a great shot of them “studying” the beams! My grandson, Aaron, loves history. He scoffs at the idea that “history is being rewritten”. My hope is that, as he matures, he will determine what is Truth & what is hype.

    • Thanks, Mary Ann! I believe that Aaron will learn as he grows just what a complicated matter it can be to separate truth from hype. In general, I think we usually have enough to go on in terms of drawing some big conclusions and life lessons, but I certainly think we should tread carefully when we impose modern logic on previous centuries…we can never really understand completely what it was like to be there, and can’t change anything that happened by sanitizing our accounts of it or coming up with explanations that satisfy our particular sensibilities. For me, it’s enough to appreciate the vast improvements we enjoy today, and wonder at how hard it must have been for even those with great advantages to survive much of what happened in the past.

  2. BRAVO! And you are so correct in alluding to the hearty breed that survived nature and ills to leave their descendants this great country… We need to preserve.

    • Thanks, I’m so glad you like the post. The more I study history, the more it convinces me that we must respond with gratitude, humility and caution. I have a quote on my refrigerator that says “What we acquire without sweat, we give away without regret.” I hope it never comes to that for this nation. I appreciate your visits here and your comments.

  3. Sheila

    Julia, you pose such a very good question regarding how we will be perceived in years to come. That is a very wise quote that you have on your refrigerator, too. I know your upcoming days are about to get very busy. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Sheila

    • Thanks so much Sheila, it will be a comfort and joy to know that we have your prayers! I will keep everyone updated as often as possible. Thanks so much for being here! I will continue to pray for you and Bill as well.

  4. you are a very brave woman Julia..and source of inspiration to others 🙂 Love visiting your blog dear

  5. you are a very strong and inspirational woman Julia…thanks for sharing your posts with us..and love reading your blog here

    • Thanks so much, I am honored by your kind words and so happy to have you visit here!

      • I always love to visit your blog dear…was just a bit busy sorting my bucket list for this year for the first time 🙂
        http://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/category/bucket-list/
        How have you been?

        • We are OK but also quite busy with recent and upcoming hospitalizations related to my husband’s cancer treatment. It’s good to stay busy, though; keeps worry at bay, I find, which was why I started the blog to begin with! 🙂 I’m so glad you like it.

          • May God give you enough strength to get through this phase dear..we are with you as your family…I am glad that you keep yourself busy as it does magic sometimes specially in tough times 🙂 Take care dear ….you are a lovely person

            • Thank you so much, your kind words are a genuine comfort. I appreciate your visits here and I hope you are having a lovely week.

  6. Eager to learn more about the history of Jamestown. 🙂
    History is really fascinating (except when dull teachers handle it). Visiting museums and historical places is always fun. I love visiting the palaces and imagining those days when a king actually ruled the palace and the territory.

    • Yes, visiting historical places is something I love too. I always feel a keen sense of what came before; perhaps it’s just a flight of fancy, but if Einstein was correct, maybe time is not the barrier we imagine it to be. Jamestown has been in the news here lately because there have been some researchers now saying they have forensic proof that there was cannibalism among the starving settlers. Not everyone agrees with these findings, but it’s pretty well established that there was starvation. Most of what we heard about Jamestown as children centered on the story of Pocahontas, which has been given many romantic interpretations such as the Disney movie. I’d like to read more about it someday and I really should visit there more often; I’ve only been there once (except very briefly) in the nearly 10 years we have lived nearby!

  7. You really are living in a perfect area for history buffs. That’s one of the things we enjoyed on our visit to Virginia. History jumps of the pages and is so tangible and touchable in Virginia. I don’t know if every generation leaves a great legacy, maybe ours is yet to be discovered.

    • Yes, history is never obvious when it is happening. I heard a wonderful speech years ago, about a certain era (I forget which one) and what was happening, and then the speaker said “but the biggest things that happened that year were not obvious; it was the babies who were being born” and then he went on to name many amazing people who were born that year, whose contributions changed the world forever. Gave me a new perspective on our present era. I hope you will come and visit out here! Let me know when you do.

  8. That’s one of the things I love about you Julia, you always make me think. Good point, maybe there’s someone being born today that going to discover how to fly to the outer reaches of the universe. Can you tell I’m excited about the new Star Trek? LOL

    • Hey, I’m excited about the future too, and the writers of Star Trek may have as good a handle on it as anyone else! Who knows, we may one day be able to beam each other up to our craft rooms! 🙂

      • Engergize!! LOL That’d be so awesome. Good one Julia!

        • Meanwhile “Live long and prosper!”

  9. oh, btw, yes I sure hope we can get back to Virginia too. We never had time for Washington, DC and I’m so interested in all the history there. You will be the first to know about it though. xK

    • Hee-hee, I’m hatching plans already!!

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