Tomorrow’s History: When The Details Hit You In The Nose

I stepped outside one day a couple of weeks ago and all of a sudden Summer had jumped into Autumn. Not faded, mind you, as many poets have told us that it does, but jumped, leaped, maybe even threw itself into Fall. And yes, where I’m from it isn’t officially yet “Autumn”, which is scheduled to be with us in late September, but I don’t go by calendars when it comes to the changing seasons!

You know how I could tell?

The light and the smell.

As the seasons shift across the globe and the tilt of the earth angles through its yearly course, there is a nearly, but not entirely imperceptible shift in the rays of the sun’s light as we migrate through the day. Rather than dead above us at noontime, they begin to slant as Autumn comes and are most slanted of all in the Winter.

Image: Amanda Stiver

Image: Amanda Stiver

These slanted rays give us part of the feeling of “crispness” in the Fall air. As leaves turn and fall to the ground they seem to dazzle us in the spotlight rays of slanted sunfall. In addition, the tiny, first shift in color from deep green to lighter green of the maple trees began in early August. By late August, when the slanted rays of sunshine meet that delicate color change, the light takes on a pink glow.

It really is tremendous to watch it happen, but you have to step away from the devices daily to see it. Don’t get stuck in a digital world, when the real one is so fully and fantastically before us. Lecture over.

The other measure of the autumnal shift? Smells.

I like smells…some of them. But I really like the smell of the grass, the plants, my garden, veggies, roses, myriad things. And I really, really like the smell of lavender. I like it so much that, wherever I move to a new place I plant it, a lot of it. Always. It is spicy, floral, slightly soapy, strongly herbal, but not perfumey.

A good whiff of it will cause your central nervous system to take a short rest and step down from “high alert.” It is a powerful, soothing herb…and it repels many bugs (does it get better than that?).

As I step outside my front door I am gladly assaulted by this wonderful fragrance. Most especially following a good heavy rain the moisture releases the oils in the leaves and carries it into the air.

As Autumn rolls along, and the temperatures cool, the leaves begin to fade and the fragrance of the lavender shifts and takes on a stronger woodsy scent. That’s how I know my seasons are moving along. The plants also die, but that’s later.

I love to measure these tiny markers of the seasons for many reasons, but especially because it reminds me to appreciate nuance. To collect those little details that are seemingly unrelated or irrelevant, but put together paint a larger, more complete, eventually overwhelming, and sometimes sinister portrait.

And this is where history comes in. The sinister bit. History, when you measure it as it happens around us, something we call, “the news” or “current events,” you must be alert to these “tells” or tiny bits of nearly imperceptible change, shift, and nuance that added together, give us a sense of where things are going. Better times or worse.

I don’t mean to be a rain cloud, but times are not getting better. That’s the sinister bit. The tells and details of the moment are plain if we watch for them. We are in for turmoil, the whole world. Instability, migration, and hostility among the great and small powers are cause for concern.

But there is profit in chaos (and no, not what you are thinking). We, as individuals, who live through the crucible of chaos have the opportunity to develop our true selves (please don’t take that in an flaky, “new age” sort of way), our deepest character and conviction that is at the core of who we are. The honor code, the force of principle that we must have and must develop to enjoy any sense of a meaningful, fruitful life that will see us through tough times.

I get my inspiration and that core conviction from the Bible. It is a personal journey, just like history, which is the measure of our experience in life, both personal as well as communal. Everybody has to face history.

So learn to see the tiny details, watch for what is coming and tackle those core principles you need to soldier through the tough times. It’s all part of the historical experience. Just don’t be a footnote of history, really live it!

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

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Exploring Gateways to History: The Used Bookshop

Stepping into a previously unexplored used bookstore for the first time is akin to stumbling on that long lost tomb of King Whoever with the certain knowledge that inside are more artifacts of priceless historical value than you can shake a stick at. It is a place ripe with undiscovered adventures, knowledge, and surprises. It’s also addictive, so explore at your own risk, you may never find your way out!

Maybe the Indiana Jones-esque archeological connection is a bit much, but not far off. As a gateway into history (which you can read about in a previous post) used bookstores are an unmined field waiting to be excavated. Any bookstore can do the job, but used bookstores offer the advantage of old books, books out of print, and rare volumes along with the mundane. All of these are really, the fodder of history as they shed light upon a viewpoint that encapsulates the outlook and perspective of its time.

Old books are a slice of history, just as archeologists sometimes create a shaft in order to see what pieces of history are beneath their feet at a dig site, so too, is the experience of flipping through a book from fifty, sixty, or a hundred years ago. We see what people fed on, their thoughts, their concerns, their solutions for their time. These all inform the present, by the way, since those problems and solutions have become our own.

A gateway to history is something that intrigues us into wanting to know more about the past, to take a little time to study and appreciate all that came before us and to seek to learn from those successes and mistakes, problems, and stories. For some a gateway is a good biography or autobiography of an historical personage (a favorite approach of mine) since you get a compelling human story along with all kinds of fascinating historical tidbits about their time and place. Others enjoy a good historical film, with the caveat that you know the history in the film will most often be “adapted”, which means, changed, to make a spiffy or more exciting film. Sometimes a fun documentary will draw you in and make you want to know more. Maps of different eras bring up questions that need answers. Photographs of famous events or people strike up a curiosity for some.

There are many gateways into history, and as I crept carefully down the dimly lit, rather tight quarters of the little local bookshop the other day, I was struck again at the excitement and breathless sense of exploration that can emerge when you find a gateway and get set to explore. I found books that I was looking for, some that I already had, many that I had never heard of, and a few that I will have to go back again and read. I may not be able to buy them all, but knowing that little place is there to explore will rescue many a rainy day in the future!

Keep thinking history! Keep exploring!

– Amanda Stiver

EXPERIENCE HISTORY: If you are in the Massillon, Ohio area be sure to stop by the local used bookstore…

The Village Bookshelf  — 746 Amherst NE, Massillon, OH 44646

Tomorrow’s History: Brexit – Should We Be Surprised?

So the hammer has fallen, the vote was taken, and England (the United Kingdom as it presently stands: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) will depart from the EU. The uproar has been, understandably, intense. Millenials and Gen-X blame Baby Boomers for voting to leave. For wanting sovereignty as a nation and cutting off the socialist ideal of the supranational confederation called the European Union.

As an aside, it seems ironic that the very generation that has voted strongly to withdraw were the same age as the present Millenials and Gen-X are when Britain first joined the EU in 1973. Perhaps, through the hard won wisdom of experience, they have learned something and upon that experience have made their present choice? It’s a thought.

A few questions about the dynamics surrounding Brexit arise: Is Britain floating out there all alone in the North Atlantic with no safety net? Is there such a thing as a long-term “supranational” league? What will happen to Europe? Who will the “big-cheese” of the continent be? What does it take to make a “united” Europe?

Leagues of nations

In our day and age, we have had experience with supranational organizations, in other words, confederations or treaty organizations in which nation states have agreed to subsume their individual sovereignty (to varying degrees and sometimes unwillingly) in favor of a power or structure that issues oversight and force upon said states. In other words, the United Nations, a kind of world congress or parliament with the power to enforce its will upon various nations. Governed purportedly by those it represents, by those very nations in congress and committee. (I question the success of this. Is there really one nation that can with objectivity judge the actions of another?)

Though the ideal of world unity, in the best of circumstances, has a ring of hopefulness to it, I remain a cynic about the actual success of this endeavor under human auspices. I believe it will take a more Divine benevolence to affect the change to peace among the peoples of the world. Peace comes with a price tag of obedience.

Returning to supranational organizations, the UK does already belong to a league of nation states that is larger in number than the EU. This financial safety net is called the Commonwealth of nations and is a vestige of much of the economic power that was wielded by Britain in the heyday of its Empire. That commonwealth has 53 member states, some of which were part of the former empire and some which were not, and it stretches around the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia. It wields, through economic cooperation and shared ideals regarding the rule of law, a considerable amount of power and influence. It counts among its members India, which has developed significant economic momentum in recent decades.

The immediate financial destruction of the UK is therefore not guaranteed, as many Brexit opponents and foreign observers have predicted.

Supranational on the long term?

Do these multi-national leagues or confederations have significant longevity? I have my doubts.

If we step back to look at ancient Rome, we see a supranational organization called…the Roman Empire. It ruled other proto-nations, peoples who gave up their sovereignty mostly by force to obey the Emperor (a religious figure it should be noted) and to some degree benefit from the financial advantages of the trade within the empire. This usually came after thousands of people from whichever ethnic group were slaughtered to prove to them how superior life (or in their case, death) by empire was.

Before Rome came other empires, Greek, Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian. None of them, Rome included, has significant longevity as a supranational conglomeration for very long. Rome strung out the original empire (with fluctuating borders here and there) for about 500 years (a good run), albeit a fairly bloody one. Persia, in various degree and conglomerations for longer than that (kind of). China as an entity went back and forth from a confederation of conquered nations to merely a group of ethnically related, but separate kingdoms just as Egypt did through the centuries. The 13th and 14th centuries A.D./C.E. being the heyday of Chinese empire, and possibly an argument could be made for the present.

Large alliances of peoples have the fluid capacity to shift and lurch in shape and form. They become, unruly. And in the ancient world unruliness was put down by force. A lot of very, violent force. The likes of you and I being the fodder of such force, and odds are, if we shift back to such a militant world climate, we will again be so. Sad to say.

Modern times

What about the United States of America as a confederation? Well, first of all the “states” are as currently defined, really just provincial organizational units of the centralized government, and aren’t peopled by individuals with a long-standing unified ethnic and/or language heritage, as one might describe the European “nation” states. We are a melting pot with a shared history of “coming to America” (even the Native Americans) through the centuries, particularly the 19th century. As a national alliance we are coming up on 240 years of history this year. Not a bad run, historically speaking, but with recent mismanagement (both politically and morally) the future looks, at present, bleak.

Bringing together actual nations which indeed have their own long-standing history, a specific ethnic history, and a unique language is more complex. In part because somebody has to admit that somebody else is in charge. One nation has to take the lead. We idealize the thought that it is possible to have shared power, but the reality of human nature and interaction proves that, throughout history, to be a fallacy. At best we can create balance of power, or mutually assured destruction to withhold us from the brink.

We are usually left with, on the positive side benevolent, enlightened dictatorship or oligarchy (often dressed up as a republic). On the dark side, this descends into the worst atrocities of the 20th century (as was seen in Germany and Russia, and other places).

So, supranational organizations do indeed have term limits. Sometimes they run long and other times they run very short. I think the EU, as it stands, has run short. Europe has never been a particularly non-violent place. Its history is layered with conflict as is not surprising when many peoples with long-standing histories jostle in close quarters.

Nationalism is alive

This brings up another reality. The renaissance of nationalism. The media called it the “Arab Spring” a couple of years ago, but really it is a spirit of nationalism that has moved the peoples of the world to recognize that they are unique and demand respect as individual nations, and can’t be combined into one “world” through the auspices of a socialist paradise. In fact, the dream of the socialist ideal in which individuals and individual nations subsume their identities for the “greater good” as defined by someone important ruling from somewhere else, has turned into a nightmare. Economically certainly and now spiritually.

The “Nationalist Spring” has descended upon us, and is the right wing swing following on the left wing sweep of the past several decades. It is reactive, violent, and purposeful (compared to the limpid alternatives) and won’t be going anywhere for a while.

So where does “Brexit” fit into this?

It is a part of the ethos that is emerging, the recognition of national identity. It is a sign that the EU, as a whole, is a failure. The UK, despite the slams against it as a puny island nation, is actually a significant economic engine and banking state. It funded a significant portion of the EU, but mismanagement (iconized by the March 2016 terrorist attacks that took place right outside the headquarters of the EU and at the Brussels airport – ie. an entity that cannot even protect itself from existential threats), the ineptitude of the handling of the refugee crisis by the other driver of the EU, Germany, through its weakening political leadership under Angela Merkel, and petty, but punishing policies handed out to member states make for an ultimately untenable internal dynamic.

Europe cannot be unified or centralized through economic bureaucracy alone, it must have a spiritual identity around which to develop oneness of mind and ideals. The indelibly anti-Europe force of the moment, the Islamic confederation of co-religionist nations has that unified calling (for better or worse). In the course of time Europe (with a strong central Germanic core) will develop something similar and then, batten down the hatches, we’ll be in for a world-halting rodeo.

Without this eventual unity of calling and religious fervor, Europe can’t fulfill its destiny. The aimless atheism and agnosticism of socialism doesn’t even have the force to coalesce that ardent, atheistic Communism did. Religious fervor goes above and beyond even that, it has the power to change the earth for the better…or worse. It really depends on in whom you place your faith.

A surprise?

We all wondered what the outcome of the Brexit vote would be. Many assumed that things would remain as they are, but a spirit of change is sweeping around the globe and to expect the status quo to remain ad nauseam is naive. We must learn to expect the unexpected.

Does this mean that England is a lost cause? Perhaps, not yet. Taking the long view and waiting to gather additional evidence is a necessary part of analyzing current events in the light of history.

As the old curse goes: “may you live in interesting times.” I think it’s fair to say that we do!

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

‘Brexit’ Turmoil Pales in Comparison to ‘Game of Thrones’ – Welcome to Reality Avoidance

I have some thoughts on the ‘Brexit’ situation, and those will follow soon, but I thought I would post some “news of the absurd” first.

In a dash for the finish line of the race to avoid reality, comes the mournful, anxious wails of fans of the ultra-violent fantasy TV series, “Game of Thrones.” Outstripping the international impact of the British exit from the European Union, for the Bible-literate, the prophetic implications of such a move, and certainly the political turmoil presently in the UK with Prime Minister David Cameron stepping down (not necessarily a bad thing for the UK) is the concern that production will cease on the main sets of the series that are located in Northern Ireland because the EU subsidizes the production costs (Anthony Joseph, “‘Way to go Brits!’ Game of Thrones Fans Fear the Hit Show Will Be Thrown into Chaos After Brexit Vote Raises Risk Bosses Won’t Be Able to  Finish Filming in Northern Ireland,” The Daily Mail at DailyMail.co.uk, June 24, 2016).

Aw, shucks. That’s tragic.

And now onto grown-up things. Folks, this is serious business. A little entertainment is fine at times, but it would behoove us to channel all that opinionated energy into the present rather than the “make-believe” non-world of fictional dramas.

Stand up for some real things, take responsibility for the culture, your personal character and the time in which you live. Your choices now will affect the future. (I look favorably on Brexit, by the way, and I believe it may not be the complete catastrophe that it is bemoaned as – just in the interest of disclosure.) Nationalism has not gone away. The apparent world peace producing potential of the EU was not what it seemed.

We live in interesting times, no doubt about it.

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

Tomorrow’s History: Marriage to the Sea Ceremony – and – DNA Links Europe and the Middle East

So, this week we take a quick look at where history collides with the present, which, strictly speaking happens every day since the present becomes the past at sunset or midnight, depending on how you view the beginning of the next day. However, sometimes these little tidbits get buried under the sand and need fishing up in order to help us examine what is happening in the present.

So, speaking of sand, did you hear the one about the professor who had her students “marry” the ocean?…

Marriage to the Sea: A New Age or an Ancient Thing?

Alas, it isn’t a joke. A group apparently held a ceremony to be married (or at least take a vow) to the sea and then consummate this “marriage” by splashing around in the water. The ceremony was organized by UC Santa Cruz professor Elizabeth Stephens and pornographic actress and educator Annie Sprinkle to encourage a passion for the ecosexual movement (yes, it exists), one presumes, as a way to worship the earth.1

In light of the recent gender-confusion movement (a destabilizing ideology that will have onerous consequences), this news item just sounds like more of the same. It is tempting to yearn for the “old days” when such things didn’t happen and when the “traditional values” were upheld. There are periods of time when more biblically aligned values have prevailed. Presently we are moving away from such an era (having lasted for almost three hundred years, plus or minus) and into a dark age – possibly the final dark age. However, as a rule, human moral and religious history has been nearly a constant mixture of darkness and the light of truth.

To get to the point, marriages to the sea are nothing new.

Let us go back in time, to about the year 1000 A.D. and to the Republic of the city of Venice. It was then that the yearly religious, political, even “magical” ceremony began in which the duke or Doge, the leader of Venice married himself (and the city) to their bride, the Adriatic Sea. The ceremony (Sposalizio del Mare) took place on Ascension Day, a Catholic religious day purporting to celebrate the ascent of Christ to heaven, and was led by the Bishop of the city, as a means of propitiating the sea for a year of fair winds and favorable sailing conditions for the vast armed merchant fleet that made the Venetians the rulers of world trade from the 1200’s to the 1500’s.2

Venice’s marriage to the sea is pretty mild compared to some of the other fertility rites of past history, of which the most recent iteration is merely a regurgitation.

What can we draw from this, besides absurdity? As a wise man once said:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.3

Phoenician Genetic Connection with Portugal

Part of the fascination with history are the movements of peoples through time. We are seeing right now, with the hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria, for various reasons, into Europe, and soon to be the U.S., that it is entirely possible for huge groups of peoples, even entire ethnic groups, to move from point A to point B thousands of miles across the globe.

Indeed, this has been the case long into the past of human history. At various points throughout time, with pressures from wars, famines, and persecutions, extremely large numbers of people have shifted around the globe from the Middle East to far abroad, even into Europe, the Americas and beyond (as we see repeated with the current Syrian refugee crisis). So it is interesting when current genetic research about the past shows that, indeed, these vast movements of people were a real deal.

Research from the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that DNA samples from a Phoenician man buried in the North African city of Carthage, is strongly connected to the European DNA identifiable with the Portugeuse. Interestingly, the Phoenicians were an ancient people originating out of the area of modern-day Lebanon, though DNA tests find that ancient Phoenician DNA is no longer present en-mass in present-day residents of the ancient cities and surroundings of Sidon and Tyre.

The conclusion? The Phoenicians were a well known merchant and trade empire that established cities around the Mediterranean, and possibly the Atlantic coasts, and beyond, during the time of King Solomon’s united Kingdom of Israel in the 900’s B.C. If we look at Biblical history we can see that King Solomon formed a trade agreement with King Hiram of Tyre (a Phoenician king to the north of modern-day Israel).5 The two kingdoms, sailed in partnership around the globe (a feasible postulation).6 Where did they go? What did they do there? Did they establish colonies? Did they merely trade with existing populations? All fascinating questions.

This new DNA research is a fascinating confirmation of what archeology and ancient documents have already established. We live in a great age for archeology, new discoveries, and growing, improved understanding of the ancient past!

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver


1 Katherine Timpf, “Prof Took Students on an ‘EcoSexual Sextravaganza’ Trip to Marry and Have Sex with the Ocean,” The National Review at NationalReview.com, May 26, 2016.

2 Colin Thubron, The Seafarers: The Venetians, Time-Life Books, 1980, page 8.

3 Ecclesiastes 1:9, The Bible, KJV.

4 “DNA from Ancient Phoenician Stuns Scientists,” Digging History at FoxNews.com, May 27, 2016.

5 1 Kings 5:12, The Bible, NKJV: “So the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as He had promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty together.”
6 1 Kings 5:22, The Bible, NKJV: “For the king [Solomon] had merchant ships at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys.”

A Look at D-Day through the Eyes of A Village: Aunay sur Odon

Many lives were lost during the Normandy invasion. Among the Allies and the Axis troops, but also the collateral damage that occurred in the small villages and towns over and upon which was the battlefield for Europe at that time.

Sometimes historic events and genealogy merge and you find yourself at a crossroads. In this case my own family history with the village of Aunay-sur-Odon, in the French department of Calvados near the Normandy coast. Many centuries ago my mother’s ancestors followed William the Conqueror across the channel to England and later to Ireland, and possibly back to Wales. At some point they made a greater leap and came to America, maybe in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. (Regardless, we got here somehow.)

The village of Aunay-sur-Odon as the bombs fell. Source: By Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16076017

The village of Aunay as the bombs were dropping. Source:By Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16076017

But the real story took place back in the village of Aunay after the June 6, 1944 events of D-Day, as the Allies progressed further into the countryside of Normandy and eventually across France. On June 12th, in the British sector, a decision was made to bombard a strategic crossroads between the towns of Caen and Vire, and Bayeux and Falaise. That crossroad village was Aunay-sur-Odon. The initial bombs were dropped and the village centre was obliterated along with the lives of 100 people.

Aunay after the bombardment. Source: By Reeves (Fg Off): - http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//9/media-9416/large.jpgThis is photograph HU 92982 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30877964

Aunay after the bombardment. Source: By Reeves (Fg Off): – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//9/media-9416/large.jpgThis is photograph HU 92982 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30877964

Then, a few days later, another decision was handed down that called for the bombardment of the entire surrounding town. On June 14 and through the night into the 15th, the entire town area was barraged. 25 percent of the population was killed.

Undoubtedly, in the crush of events that pushed the invading armies across France to free the enslaved peoples of Europe, the decisions were made quickly and with the full knowledge that collateral damage would happen. The Germans dug themselves in where they could and wanted to keep the roads open for their own defenses. A strategic crossroads was a viable and necessary target for the Allied forces. This is the nature of war.

So, as we remember the sacrifices of the men who died valiantly for their countries, we also need to be reminded that war takes a very real toll on the civilians who are caught in the crossfire, or, in this case, the crossroads. It is always thus, regardless of the conflagration. There is collateral damage, often innocent people, but always those who simply want to stay out of the way but cannot.

War is not always glorious. Mostly, war is death.

Keep thinking history.

– Amanda Stiver

EXPERIENCE HISTORY:  If you are interested in the the D-Day invasions and want to experience them as the news reports came to America through the radio broadcasts that day, tune into Conyers Old Time Radio and listen as they broadcast the original recordings from Invasion day. Try to imagine yourself, gathered with your family around the radio, waiting to hear exactly what was happening across the Atlantic Ocean. Imagine that your brother, husband, or, possibly, father was overseas and his life was on the line that day. Imagine also the villagers and people of France as they braced themselves for what was to come in the next few days once the invasion had begun.

If you’ve missed the June 6 broadcast, you can listen to some of the recordings here at Complete Broadcast Day D-Day from Archive.org.

Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Austria Moves Right-wing – Unphotogenic: The ‘Not-Kate’ Effect)

Austria’s Far-right Party Loses Election, But Wins As A Movement

While Americans continue to be entranced by the ongoing boxing match between U.S. Presidential candidates, another election has just thrown a spotlight on political conditions across the Atlantic. Austria, which for many people is associated more with Edelweiss and Von Trapps than political innovation, has just given the rest of the world a rare opportunity to see a political future in advance.

Ironically, Austria has, in many ways, been right at the heart-beat of European politics, from the Holy Roman Empire on to the time of the First World War, and most definitely during the Second World War and the short-lived Nazi supremacy, it has often shared the fate of its neighbor, Germany.

In this case, jubilation has broken out across most of the European Union after Alexander Van der Bellen, a leftist and academic took the election for the Austrian Presidency. Interestingly, he won by a miniscule (only 31,000 votes) majority following the counting of absentee votes, a unique and curious circumstance that is likely only to feed the fires of the political opposition that barely lost (Bernd Riegert, “Opinion: Black Eye for Austria as Van der Bellen Wins Presidency,” Deutsche Welle at DW.com, May 23, 2016).

The opposition candidate, Norbert Hofer, is a right-wing politician who supports a nationalist, EU-skeptic state and opposes whole-sale entry of refugees from the Middle East. And while he may not be seated in government, the real news is that a right-wing party has gained enough momentum in Europe to take and nearly win a presidential election. And where Austria goes, Germany may follow, a well acknowledged relationship governs these two language-sharing states. The centrist Social Democrats of Austria lost the election in a big way (the same party with which German leader Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat [which is a political party, not just a statement of faith], has a ruling coalition), indicating Austria may have just become a harbinger of the political winds that are about to change in Germany.

The refugee crisis has served on the one hand, to highlight the precarious nature of the European Union and it’s fragile infrastructure of allied nations. On the other hand, it has shown that when large numbers of people (in the millions) begin to shift around the globe there will be wars. This has happened from the very ancient past onward. If a million people move from one place to another, and there is not enough room where they are going, they will bump others to the side and be perceived as a threat. That threat has been perceived in Europe, and the beginnings of a militant reaction are evident, even in this latest Austrian election.

It is well to remember the purported Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times.” I think it’s safe to say that interesting times have arrived!

The Awkward Ones: Being Unphotogenic In The Age Of Digital Cameras

And now, let’s go lighthearted for a change.

I recently read an amusing article by British journalist Sarah Vine. She commented on the unfortunate fashion choices of the Princesses of York, Beatrice and Eugenie, that clashed with the willowy grace of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) at a recent garden party held at Buckingham Palace. Kate, in a beautiful cream suit flowed gracefully in the direction of adoring party-goers, whilst trailing behind were the York sisters, who with less statuesque height chose frocks that were somewhat unusual in shape (read: ill-fitting), and bold in print and color. In the framed image, they follow behind the Duchess looking as though they are glaring daggers at the back of her head. Sigh, such is life for the imperfectly photogenic.

In reality, in the image, the sisters were undoubtedly looking elsewhere (and do in fact possess their own brand of beauty), but in the “click-click” nature of digital photography that one frame caught what looked like both a fashion and a deportment faux-pas. The author of the article goes on to discuss the challenges of those who don’t look good on camera, or who always look slightly goofy, while others always seem to be perfectly composed. I can relate to the former! (Sarah Vine, “I Know Exactly How Beatrice and Eugenie Feel When They’re Photographed Next To Kate: I’ve Been There Too, Says Sarah Vine,” The Daily Mail at DailyMail.co.uk, May 25, 2016.)

But it brings up an interesting historical question (one the author also posits): What must it have been like before cameras were around? Back when the best you could hope for to perpetuate your physical appearance was a painting or sculpture? It’s a thought, isn’t it.

Imagine a time when animation of features, expression, and voice were valued over the angles of cheekbones and thinness of limbs. Imagine that strength of arm, determination of mind, aptitude of intellect, ability to cultivate and grow plants and animals, keep a clean, healthy, productive home, cook nutritious, delicious meals, and raise healthy, balanced children was the stuff of which virtue was made, and didn’t take a back-seat to some rarefied, hormone-driven vision of what feminine “beauty” is. Difficult isn’t it?

Let Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fame help us, when the subject of his contemplations are demanded of him by the hovering Miss Bingley, he replies, “…My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

Fine eyes, no less! When was the last time I heard that?!

Difficult as it may be, I think we need to spend time in that past world, imagining it more often. I have nothing against the photogenic, beauty adds to our world, but we need to find a better balance! Beauty of virtue is a thing, too (for more info, please read the book of Proverbs, chapter 31 in the Bible). If we let it, history can remind us that there is more to this life than just surface value.

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver