Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remember When . . . Facts Got to Be Facts Again?

I remember my first few weeks at college (okay, some of it--it's been a while, LOL). We were reading The Iliad for our seminar class. The first 6 books were assigned over the summer, so we all leisurely flipped our way through it over the course of two months, thinking, "Wow, this is gonna be great." Then we opened our mailboxes the first day at St. John's, got our assignments from our tutors (professors) and went, "Wait--what? You expect us to read the next 6 books in two days? While I'm memorizing the Greek alphabet? And learning all the axioms and three propositions from Euclid? And reading this Theophrastis dude for lab?" Hence began the total immersion into the Johnny life and, that first year, all things Ancient Greek.

Now that you have a glimpse of the rate at which a Freshman at St. John's becomes a Greek-know-it-all, I'll get to my point. =) Or closer to it anyway. See, at St. John's one of the boo-hiss evils are outside authorities. In our classes, all the students are supposed to be on a shared level, so you're not allowed to reference in the conversation (all classes are conversation-based) anything that hasn't been covered at St. John's. So that documentary you watched? Hush up about it. That thing you learned in high school? No one cares. The only facts of import are the ones in that book in front of you, and that ain't no textbook. It's the original (translated, usually. Not always, but usually.)

But still we whisper. Like, when reading The Iliad, a conversation out of class may have gone like this:

"Let's all go to Troy. You can be Agamemnon, and then I'll steal your god-stick and go get people excited so we can kick some Paris-butt."

"Yeah, not possible. Oh wait--they finally discovered it again, right?"

"Discovered . . . again?"

"Yeah, didn't you read about that or see it on the History Channel, back when we had TV [snickers all around--there's no cable at St. John's]? For the longest time they thought the whole Trojan War story was nothing but myth because they couldn't locate any ruins of Troy. But a while back they found it, right where Homer said it should be."

Now, I always laugh and roll my eyes when scientists and historians discover something right where it should be. Like a recent satellite study that said, "Hey, Eden probably was right here . . . look at that!" For me, it goes toward this really weird modern mindset that says, "We know all. No one before us knew anything."

Um . . . why? It's especially funny because 2500 years ago, the Trojan War was still ancient history, but it was known ancient history. When Xerxes was marching to Greece, they stopped at Troy, where "he listened to the story of the war there, then decided he wanted to see where Priam ruled, so the whole troop went up to the site of Ilium . . ."

But a century ago--a century ago it was fiction. Fable. Until, oh wait . . . look at that! Troy showed up!

Sorry, I just find it both baffling and amusing that we doubt so much about what people before us recorded simply because we can't see it with our own eyes. I recognize that we sometimes need independent validation, evidence--but instead of dismissing stories we can't totally validate, can't we just teach our kids we haven't found evidence of it yet rather than telling them something doesn't exist at all?

Seriously. I hate it when facts change. Then you end up with a new generation shaking their heads at their parents going, "Come on, Mom, Pluto isn't a planet. What are you talking about?"

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