Sunday, September 14, 2008

It’s About Time

As it happens, the prior post that I wrote—“Who Will Remember?”—turned out to be my 300th blog entry. I chose not to mention it then, as it seemed out of place to be pointing to my writing, when the issue at hand was an issue of far greater import.

Reading through the comments, I was struck with the observation by my blogging buddy,
Philip. He noted that few people remember 9/11—but not 2001, as most of us would instinctively think, but 1973. That is the date that Salvador Allende, President of Chile, died during a coup d’etat. It is now known that his death was suicide, but at the time it seemed that he died as a result of the hostile action. This infamous coup had U.S. government complicity fingerprints all over it.

This coincidence of events got me to thinking about time—actually, I have frequently had these thoughts, but have not until now written them down. I guess I didn’t take the time before.

It is one of the attributes of being human—this propensity to get all wrapped up with time. Surely one of the things that separates humans from other animals is our ability to recall the past, and anticipate the future. We may not be alone in these traits, but we have refined them more than any other animal on earth.

Remember when we approached the turning of the century—passing from 1999 to 2000? People got down-right crazy. There were millennial predictions of doom. Depending upon one’s religious slant, people thought time could end with the dawn of 2000. That always struck me as incredibly silly since the marking of 2000 years since the birth of Christ is not a precise fixed moment. In fact, theologians who try to pin down the exact year of the birth of Christ calculate that he was most likely born 3 or 4 years B.C. (I love that particular conundrum.)

Since there are only 365 days in a year, the chance of there being multiple events that have occurred on any specific date, but in different years, is myriad. One of the assignments I sometimes give to my English Composition students is to research something of world significance that happened on the day and month of their birthdays. I begin this assignment by telling them about the bombing of Dresden at the close of World War II. This exercise always gets their attention—students are suckers for any story. I go into great detail about the fire-bombing that resulted in such massive destruction and thousands of deaths. Then I say—why do you think I am telling you this story? Usually, I get blank looks. So, then I say—the event occurred on the day I was born. Now, your assignment is to find out something of world significance that occurred on the day you were born.

So, another 9/11 has come and gone. And we all remembered the events of 2001, having long forgotten the events of 1973, if we ever noted that date. It’s about time that we expanded our horizons, and note our dates of significance and also note the dates of significance elsewhere in the world.

Explanation of photos:
Sunrise, sunset, moonrise—all markers of time for us.


JeanMac said...

That's a great post - I think I know what happened on my BD in Aug. 45 but will double check before I say for sure.

Ruth said...

Very thought-provoking post, and so true. I have no idea what happened during my birth year. We do remember things that impact us emotionally. Big events that stand out in my mind because "I was there" include the assassinations of the 1960s and the fall of communism in 1989/90. On 9/11 1973 I was a pretty self-absorbed college student more concerned about my grades and friends than events in Chile.

Anvilcloud said...

Although Einstein might disagree with me, in my mind in a very real sense there's no such thing as time. There's today and memories. I can never quite articulate what I mean though.

NCmountainwoman said...

Gee Donna, are you telling us that things that happen outside the United States are important too?

That is a great assignment for the students to try to open their eyes to the entire world.

Nevin said...

Aunt Donna,

September 11 was also the day that Gandhi led his first nonviolent protest in South Africa. I think the year was 1906.

Mary said...

Donna, this is one of your best. The sunrise, sunset, and moonrise - what a great meaning.

"Usually, I get blank looks. So, then I say—the event occurred on the day I was born. Now, your assignment is to find out something of world significance that occurred on the day you were born."

This is why you are wonderful in the classroom with some brains that need a jolt.

I vividly remember the events of 9/11/01, where I was, what I felt and what I was thinking.

Now, I'll need to find out what happened on the day I was born. I've love to be in your classroom (yeah, I've said it before...)