History

The Ruins of Rome Speak to Us

Recently, I wrote that humanity can overcome the prophets of doom who predict all manner of ends to humanity. Perhaps their lack of hope arises from their belief the world is borne out of randomness. One may ask them, then why worry about our fate? For those who have not given up, who see purpose in the universe, and want to keep civilization from faltering, there are many tools at their disposal.

History is one.

What looks impossible in the present looks inevitable in hindsight.

Those are the words written by Lael Arrington when discussing the fate of ancient Rome. In hindsight, the events of history often evoke a certain question: How could they have not seen that coming? Probably because those people were saying: That could never happen to us.

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Is Humanity Doomed?

If you have ever read about our ancestors, you were probably taught that, at the end of the last Ice Age, the citizens of North America hunted the many species of megafauna (giant mammals) to extinction. After all, why not assume terrible humans are responsible for all that death?

As it turns out, evidence has been growing of a planet-altering catastrophe as the cause. Most likely an impact event centered over North America (which endured most of the extinctions), with indications of impact craters littered across the East Coast.

Why is this so fascinating? Because it reminded me of the tendency of some people to immediately blame humans for every terrible event to befall the planet. These are the same people, with their dour and glum outlook, whom have been predicting for decades, that we only have a decade or two before we destroy the planet, run out of energy, and starve to death.

Then the decades pass, and the apocalyptic scenarios do not. Continue reading

Categories: Ancient America, History, Native Americans, Prehistory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pink Houses, Senators and Abuse of Power

Two important indie films that the politicians don’t want you to see are currently in theaters.

The first is Little Pink House, a true story of the abuse of eminent domain by the government. Also check out John Stossel’s report on this legalized larceny.

The second is Chappaquiddick, on the events surrounding the death Mary Jo Kopechne in a car driven by Senator Ted Kennedy.

Someday history will look at that era as when abuse of power was institutionalized at an unimaginable level. There were a whole series of dark events like this in the 1960s. Only a few days ago, we read again how the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. believes James Earl Ray was framed for MLK’s assassination. Considering that, it’s disingenuous to continue to call this a conspiracy theory.

Some may ask, “Why does it matter all these years later?”

It matters because, then and now, people like to look the other way even when they know the official stories don’t square. They want to believe so hard that their leaders are so much better than them, that they allow themselves to be distracted and convinced what is wrong is right.

We let the government become what it is. And they have done far worse than the daily drama they put on for us — the fake angst and hand wringing against each other, only to have nothing change. They divide us with the frivolous so we never truly bother to look behind the curtain.

And as long as we are afraid to rip that curtain down, nothing will change and many will escape justice.

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Equality and Diversity of Humans…and Elves?

Fantasy tales are often populated with a wide array of beings. Elves, humans and dwarves are a common trio, along with trolls, orcs and countless other variations. Not all authors have filled their stories with these fantastic races to purposely tell stories of diversity or race-relations.  However, long before terms like diversity were buzzing in everyone’s minds, two masters of fantasy had made a statement on equality among people. Joseph Loconte writes in A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War:

[J.R.R.] Tolkien and [C.S.] Lewis encountered the horrific progeny of [eugenics] in the trenches and barbed wire and mortars of the Great War [World War I] — and it gave them great pause about human potentiality…the characters in their novels possess a great nobility, creatures endowed with a unique capacity for virtue, courage, and love. Indeed, a vital theme throughout is the sacred worth of the individual soul in Middle-Earth and Narnia, every life is of immense consequence.

The “races” of Narnia and Middle-Earth are very much like us, always at odds with each other: Elves hate dwarves; elves look down on humans; hobbits are obviously different from their larger human cousins; orcs once were elves.  And yet the fellowship of the ring throws together polar opposite, feuding races in a quest to the save the world.

Against all odds, they succeeded.  A powerful message among the many in these stories.

Tolkien and Lewis began writing during a time when eugenics was on the rise. This misuse of science and philosophies pretending to be science was rationale to cleanse humanity of undesirable races, beliefs or attributes. People remember the result of this horror in World War II under the Nazis, yet don’t know that this thinking had been promoted among the “elite” thinkers and governments across the world for decades.

While many many post-WWI writers saw hopelessness, and others turned to Progress as a god to right humanity, Tolkien and Lewis saw the importance of every life. They wrote of evil that couldn’t be reasoned away — and could be hidden behind “science” and “progress.” The equality of peoples doesn’t automatically equate to the equality of ideas and actions. Even Tolkien’s “dreadful orcs are presented as rational beings” — but being rational isn’t the same as being on the side of virtue.

Middle-Earth and Narnia showed how mankind, even with its capacity for wrong, has innate qualities that can defeat the most terrible of evils; qualities that transcend superficial differences among people, and show that we are much more than a result of randomness and fate.

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Templars of Fact and Fiction

The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins.  This was years ago,  when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films.  Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).

The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own.  Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.

In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available.  There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.

So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.

Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.

Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what  in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.

Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.

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Does History Matter?

“Does studying history matter?”

This is often asked by students and adults alike. There’s the oft quoted response from George Santayana that goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is certainly true, but let’s go deeper. In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise write that when Ken Burns was asked why history is important, he responded, “History is the study of everything that has happened until now. Unless you plan to live entirely in the present moment, the study of history is inevitable.” Bauer and Wise continue with:

History, in other words, is not a subject. History is the subject. It is the record of human experience, both personal and communal. It is the story of the unfolding of human achievement in every area — science, literature, art, music, and politics. A grasp of historical facts is essential to the rest of the classical curriculum.

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Categories: History, Modern History | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Unstoppable Leaders

When you  hear “history book,”  do you turn and run? Are these books the last on your reading list? Is your perception of learning history colored by memorization and repetition often utilized in schools? What if reading history could be every bit as exciting as fiction?

It can be.

There are some masters of narrative history out there writing the true stories that will compel you to turn every page. One of these authors is Candice Millard. Her books on two of the most influential and compelling leaders of the 20th Century — Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt — are gripping reads.

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When Fiction Becomes Fact

In Among the Shadows, many of the characters have learned to use the energy that burns inside them — for good and evil. There are those that can see into the minds of others, cross the barriers raised by time or manipulate matter. Fiction right?

Or is it?

Annie Jacobsen‘s latest book in her fascinating series on Cold War black projects, Phenomena, will make all but the most hardened skeptics think twice.

For decades, the U.S. Government spent millions in researching the practicality of using people who could remote view distant places or influence people with their mind. Note that I didn’t write that they were just determining if these things could be done — they employed people who proved they had unique abilities.

This isn’t a new revelation, but Jacobsen has interviewed dozens of those involved and uncovered newly declassified documentation. Thousands of papers still remain off-limits, so she’s probably only scratched the surface here. However, as with her previous books — Area 51, Operation Paperclip, and The Pentagon’s Brain — Jacobsen has weaved together another masterful narrative history of black box projects. These topics are often the favorite target of conspiratorial and fringe researchers, but this is the real deal.

Or, as a skeptic might ask, is this some elaborate psyop perpetuated by the government against its enemies? If it is, this is the most convincing one ever and the skeptics haven’t shown they are correct.

It’s easy to wave one’s hands and say, “It’s all a fraud!” Annie Jacobsen has laid out the detailed case of why this is all something very different from fakery. She isn’t taking sides, but is surprised at what she finds, and writes, “There is no question that man is extraordinary, each of us a phenomenon.”

Indeed, fact may very well trump fiction.

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Death of History

It is said that if we ignore history, we will repeat it. How can we follow this quintessential maxim if we allow people to erase or rewrite history?

Recently, Charlottesville City in Virginia, voted to tear down a statue of Robert E. Lee at a cost of $300,000. Once councilman claimed it was “delusional”  to believe anything different than the “Confederate states had as their primary aim the preservation of a way of life in which enslaved humans.”

No, Councilman, your statement is a rewrite of history.

There were those who wanted to preserve slavery, but Lee was not one of them, he wrote before the war (as quoted by H.W. Crocker III): “In this enlightened age…slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil…” and “emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity than from the storms and contests of fiery controversy.”  Lee would also free his inherited slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation and argue for the South to abolish slavery during the war. Lee was loyal to Virginia, and when it seceded he went “to her defence” but still hoped that “wisdom and patriotism of the nation will yet save it.”

He believed in the United States of America, but also the right that every state understood when they joined the Union: The right to leave. To consider Lee a symbol of racism or slavery is what is delusional. Ignoring history also makes it easy to avoid the question that few every want to ask:

Was there not a better way to end slavery and preserve the Union that didn’t result in the deaths of at least 620,000 Americans (and maybe as many as 850,000)? Continue reading

Categories: Critical Thinking, History | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost City of Z

David Grann‘s book The Lost City of Z reintroduced readers to the true story of Percy Fawcett‘s epic search for the legendary Lost City of Z in the Amazon. Now, it is being told on the big screen this spring and may be a welcome respite to the same old, action films. Check out the trailer here:

Categories: Ancient America, Forgotten Places, History, Mysteries, Native Americans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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