Thursday, September 23, 2004

Beginnings and endings

I've just been reading Inside the ivory tower, an article in this week's Guardian, about academic blogging. This interests me. If I were to continue my studies (fat chance), I think I'd use blogging in a similar way to the way this woman, mentioned in the article, is using it - as a way of recording and organising her ideas.

Hers is a lovely blog, a fascinating read. WWI has always interested me, and even more so since I read Reginald Hill's The Wood Beyond, in which the writer explores the taboo subject of martial law as implemented during that war. I am always interested in how perceptions change, and how beliefs about events can be quite different from the events themselves. People believe what they want to believe. (I called my mother today, and was reminded forcefully of this.)

I remember my first ever history lecture for just this reason. The professor talked about how it seems to be a given that human beings will hark back to a 'Golden Age' when everything was better than it is now, and he talked about the myths that grow up around this. One of these myths is the myth of the family, he told us, and proceeded to describe the 'Golden Age' of family that governments and religious leaders like to use, to tweak our emotions. He then went on to discredit the myth comprehensively.

I came out of the lecture feeling as if my head had exploded into joyful bits. Education should always be like that. It isn't, but it should be.

My opinion now is that the longing for a Golden Age is connected with memories of childhood, when time moved slowly and we experienced things newly, clearly, and sharply, unencumbered by layers of memory and experience. I also think that in a similar way apocalyptic beliefs are connected with the fear of death. These myths are symbolically true for everybody. We are born, we are young for a few years, and then we age and understand we must die. The myths endure and are powerful because for each individual one of us, on some level, they are true.

They are our beginnings and our endings.