We have noticed a pattern as we have been traveling through important historical places the past few weeks.
As we walked over the North Bridge in Concord, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired, our boys ran across the bridge completely engulfed in their own reenactment. The park ranger watched the boys reflectively and when they came back to us panting he asked them if those first shots were treason or necessary part of the path to liberty. There are many answers …
At the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, NY our kids asked many questions as they jumped into history one great story at a time. Did Babe Ruth actually call his shot in the 1932 World Series? If Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball single handedly, who did? There are many answers …
The kids bumped into a historian from Washington D.C. when they were standing in front of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s locker. This gentleman heard their questions echo from one display to another and he asked our kids if they knew what “evolution” meant. He listened patiently and summarized their findings by stating gracefully:
“One definition of evolution is the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.”
They listened attentively as he explained that many historians are now adopting a more “evolutionist” point of view. Things that once seemed black and white, like the first shots fired in the American Revolution or who invented baseball, are gradually becoming more complex with time as many perspectives and artifacts emerge. As they talked of their time in Europe, he asked them if they could think of anything in history that would fit into this evolutionist theory. They shouted out names like Galileo, Joan of Arc, and Leonardo da Vinci and I stood back in awe of the teachers who have come into our experience.
As he said his good-byes, he held the kids attention a moment longer by digging mints from his pocket while exclaiming softly, “Remember, all truths are a matter of perspective. They change depending on where you are standing and what your experience has taught you. No matter who anyone quotes, they are speaking their own truth. You will gather pieces of knowledge and some will stick or get tossed based on your path. Keep asking questions as they are the most honest way to gain insight and form your own perspectives. Even when you think you have an opinion, never stop asking questions. The smartest people in history are never done questioning. Their legacy IS their questions. Of course that is just my perspective.” With a knowing smile, he was gone.
I think our kids attract these people into their experience because their questions are genuine and they are open to any and all answers. They have not formulated camps about right and wrong, Republican or Democrat, Christian or Jewish, or otherwise. They ask from a place of genuine inquiry and people come out of nowhere to deepen their understanding of the world. Our favorite historian disappeared as fast as he arrived. As we walked the quintessential streets of Cooperstown, we never caught another glance of this magnificent man.
As we stood at Henry David’s Thoreau’s grave at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, we thought of how different our perspectives are from when we left on this journey almost two years ago. We drove away with Thoreau’s words ringing through us, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
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