HISTORY VERSUS TRUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

How’s your credibility doing these days? 


We watched “Serenity.” Again.

It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.

serenity_movie_poster

Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.

Despite spaceships and a futuristic planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.

serenity_8

It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.

Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t superpowers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.

Serenity movie cast

No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”

And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.


“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the “Serenity.”

I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steampunk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about eventually.

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

When Mal Reynolds talks about “hiding half the truth,” it sums up history as most of us know it. We learn the “mythology” of history. It can also be a complete lie. There’s half the truth — and then, there’s a complete absence of any truth.

We are told what is true and for most people, it is easier to accept what we are told as “The Truth” rather than make an effort to find out what really happened.

History (mostly) is the stuff the winners say is true.  Author Dan Brown said:


“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”


Sometimes, what you hear as “history” is a truth which never happened, but which losers need. It soothes guilty consciousness and makes it possible for them to “move on” and thus pretend the past never happened.

Every nation has a dark past. No nation is guiltless. In no country have the victors treated their victims with kindness and charity. There has been slaughtering throughout the world. Whether your particular people got slaughtered or not is pure luck of the draw.

It’s always an interesting philosophical question: Who draws the straws? Why us? Why them? It’s one of those “ultimate” questions and there is no answer.

History isn’t credible as taught. The history we hear in school has nothing to do with telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure.

Debunking those stories comes later when a changed power structure requires a different story.

Nathan Fillion Hero

Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so.

He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

HEROES, ICONS AND LOSS

For Whom We Grieve, by Rich Paschall

In our younger years I suppose it is common to develop heroes in sports and entertainment.  Most of them will be real people, some will be fictitious characters, but they will come to mean a lot in our lives.  We follow their careers.  We cheer them on in the theater and at the movies.  We listen to them on the radio, CDs or streaming apps on our mobile devices.  We watch them at concerts and on television.  We grow attached to our heroes as if they were personal friends or members of the family.  After all, many of them enrich our lives.  Of all these, I think our musical favorites affect us the most to us.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “the soundtrack of our lives.”  Radio stations love to use it, especially oldies stations.  When they say they are playing our “soundtrack,” what do they mean?  Do our lives have a soundtrack?  I believe they do and they contain many heroes and icons.

From a young age up to the early 30s, I think we develop a “soundtrack.”  It is the music we listen to the most.  It is the records, CDs and digital downloads we buy.  How many of us bought an album in our late teens or early 20s and then listened to it many times in the decades that followed?  While some continue to embrace new artists throughout their lives, many cling to the stars of their youth.  For example, I saw Chicago the band in college in the 1970s and more times than I can count in the following years.  I saw Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin (Beach Boys) in 2016.  I saw the Rolling Stones a few years ago in Chicago.  It is a joy to listen and reminisce.

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014
Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

When the artists who played the music we grew up listening to pass away, we are understandably sad.  If they pass away from old age or sickness, we not only grieve for them but for ourselves as well.  Their passing is a reminder of our own mortality.  We do, however, have their great music to help ease the pain of loss.

In 2016 it seems we lost some iconic figures who played on the soundtrack of my life.  Maybe they played on yours too.    It was a year that stunned many in the music industry.  My mother would have known Kay Starr (94) and Julius La Rosa (86), who performed until recent years.  Fans of folk music would mourn the loss of Glenn Yarbrough (Limeliters) at 86.  Country and Western fans lost a huge star in Merle Haggard (79).

Elton John lost a hero and musical favorite in Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell (74).  It was Russell who helped John to become a rock star, and John returned the favor in recent years by touring with Russell and recording an album with him (The Union).

Fans of the 1970s Grammy winning rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer saw the passing of both Keith Emerson (74) and Greg Lake (69).  ELP won the Grammy for Best New Artists in 1972 and Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1981.  The progressive rock group sold an estimated 48 million albums.

Of my favorites I will give an honorable mention to Rick Parfitt (68) of the British rock group Status Quo.  The biggest hit I can remember was “Pictures of Matchstick Men” from 1968.  I loved the “psychedelic sound.”  They had a few more hits over the years.  Parfitt is on the left at this 2014 festival performance, proving old guys rock:

One of the first singers I remember was Bobby Vee (73).  He was already a rock star when I became aware of Rock and Roll.  He had quite a string of hits in the 1960s and of course, appeared on American Bandstand with Dick Clark.

Glenn Frey (67), was a musician, songwriter, founding member of the Eagles and a lead singer on many of their hits, as well as an occasional actor on television and in films.  The Eagles Greatest Hits was the best-selling album in the US in the 20th Century and second all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.   The track listing of the Eagles iconic album is the finest collection of rock and roll of the 1970s.

Prince Rogers Nelson, or just Prince to you and me, was another multifaceted artist.  He picked up 7 Grammys in his career as well as an Academy Award (Purple Rain).  With numerous hits to his credit, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. At the time of his death he was seeking professional help for constant pain.  He was only 57.  Prince performed Purple Rain live in a rain storm at the Super Bowl:

One of the most iconic rock stars of our era was David Bowie (69).  He was a constant innovator, often reinventing his musical style and his personal image at the same time.  Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In addition to his musical career, he appeared in many theatrical productions and films.

Perhaps the biggest shock in the Rock and Roll world was the sudden death of Grammy winning artist George Michael (53), reportedly of heart failure.  Michael burst on the music scene as one half of Wham!  Their good looks, high energy and lively tunes brought them huge success.  When Michael went on to a solo career, he tried to concentrate on more adult themes in his music.  Careless Whisper was one of those songs and a big hit:

HEROES

WHO DO YOU ADMIRE?  


There are real heroes among us. They don’t wear capes and masks. Instead, they wear heavy gear and carry hoses, axes, and breathing masks. They drive big red trucks with loud sirens and in a small community like this one, they are all volunteers.

When the rest of us are running out of the burning building, these people are racing into it. Heroes. Unpaid and underpaid, they are also under-appreciated for the dangerous and vital work they do.

Firefighters-9.11

This classic shot of the firefighters on 9/11 says it all. I didn’t take the picture and I don’t know who did, so I can’t credit the photographer. I would if I could.


Maybe that’s why our retired local fire truck “old number 2” has a place of her own in a field and is regularly visited by her neighbors.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

TRUTH, HISTORY, AND HEROES

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Malcolm Reynolds, “Serenity.”

We finally watched “Serenity.” It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.

serenity_movie_poster

Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.

Despite space ships and a futuristic other planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.

serenity_8

It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.

Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t super powers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.

Serenity movie cast

No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”

And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of “Serenity.”

I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steam punk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about in the future.

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

But this so well summed up history as we know it. Not the “mythology” of history, which is what we were fed in school. Not mainstream history we are told is Truth with the capital “T” and that the majority of people accept at face value, if  they remember any history at all.

History isn’t about telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be — in my opinion — but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure. Debunking those stories comes in the future, when a new power structure needs a different story.

Nathan Fillion Hero

Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so. He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

ALEXANDER LEARNS VIRTUE – A JEWISH FOLKTALE

Judaism is a religion, but even more it’s a philosophy and an ethnicity. An identity. We have special foods, customs, stories derived from wherever “our people” came from — or at least came from most recently.

It was during the time among the Babylonians, and later among the Persians, we incorporated into our folklore shedim (demons) and dibbukim (migrant spirits) as well as the concept of angels and demons (derived from Zoroastrianism). These influences have become a permanent part of Jewish literature, right through today.

So Jews, like other ethnic groups, have our folk tales and mythology. One characters who appears frequently in Jewish folklore is — of all people — Alexander the Great.  As a kid, no one was more surprised than I was to find Alexander showing up in stories from the Talmud.

Excerpt from : 

THE AMERICA COUNCIL ON JUDAISM

The Universal and Unique Nature of Jewish Folklore

Solveig Eggerz
Issues
Fall 1995

On Alexander the Great’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the wise men of the city come out to meet the conqueror and demonstrate through word play what Alexander would have learned about himself had he but read the Talmud.

TALMUD

Alexander Learns Virtue

He asks these questions of the wise men:

“Who is wise?”

“He who can foresee the future,” answer the wise men.

“Who is a hero?”

“He who conquers himself.”

“Who is rich?”

“He who rests content with what he has.”

“By what means does man preserve his life?”

“When he kills himself.” (Talmudist notes: By this they meant when a man destroys within himself all passion.)

“By what means does a man bring about his own death?”

“When he clings to life.” (Talmudist notes: When he holds on to his passions and belongs to them.)

“What should a man do who wants to win friends?”

“He should flee from glory and should despise dominion and kingship,” the wise men conclude.

At the end of the Judaization process, the Alexander is a humbled dictator. Although the lesson does not transform him into Moses, the Talmudic dialectics bring Alexander the Great down a notch or two and make him a better man and a more benevolent dictator.

THE ACQUISITIVE EYE – A JEWISH TALE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Judaism is a religion, but even more it’s a philosophy, an ethnicity and an identity. We have special foods, customs, and stories from wherever “our people” have lived through the centuries.

It was during the time among the Babylonians, and later among the Persians, we incorporated into our folklore shedim (demons) and dibbukim (migrant spirits) as well as the concept of angels and demons (derived from Zoroastrianism). These influences have become a permanent part of Jewish literature, right through today.

One of the characters who appears frequently in Jewish folklore is — of all people — Alexander the Great. As a kid, I was astonished to find Alexander showing up in stories from the Talmud.

This one is my favorite.

The Acquisitive Eye

Alexander is on his way home to Macedonia after conquering the entire world. The great ruler comes to a stream whose waters originate in Paradise. He follows the stream until he comes to the gates of Paradise itself, and pounds on the gate crying: “I am Alexander, conqueror of the world! I demand you let me in!”

Alexander is told that “Only the pious may enter Paradise,” but being as he is Alexander, they make an exception and he is allowed to come through the gates. As he stands at the entrance, he see something rolling towards him. Alexander realizes it’s a human eye. He picks it up, brings it to the wise men and asks them, “What does this mean?”

75-Eye-2

The wise men tell Alexander to place the eye on a scale and try to balance it with gold and jewels. Alexander heaps the scale with piles of riches, but no matter how much he piles on, the eye outweighs it.

“The eye is never satisfied as long as it can see,” say the wise men, “Therefore it can never be satisfied. All the treasure in the world cannot outweigh it.  The eye will want more and more.”

The wise men instruct Alexander to remove the gold and place a pinch of dust on the eye. They then place a feather on the opposing scale and it is heavier than the eye. At last the great Alexander understands the Talmudic lesson on greed and materialism.

He says: “So long as a man is alive, his eye can never be satisfied. Yet as soon as he dies, the moment dust covers his eye, even a feather outweighs it. Only in death does the eye lose its power. Only in death is man satisfied.”

And so Alexander left Paradise a wiser man.

For more stories and other information, see THE AMERICA COUNCIL ON JUDAISM.

Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! – GREATNESS

Greatness comes in many forms. From your best friend, to your husband and fourth grade teacher … the fireman, police and soldiers who protect you … the men who invent our world … the people who fight injustice. So  much greatness, too much for one post … this is a small start.