It was 60 years ago today

Or yesterday that is.  At an otherwise obscure church social, a 16 year old with a band, name of John Lennon, was introduced by a mutual friend to a 15 year old named James Paul McCartney.  A milestone in musical history.

I don’t know, and I could be wrong, but I’ll bet it was no big deal when it happened.  I’d wager nobody looked and said, “See there Ethel?  Those two young fellows over there just met.  Bet you they’ll form a band that will help usher in the counter-cultural revolution, bring the liberal revolution into mainstream England and America, and revolutionize not only music, but culture and entertainment.”  I mean, I could be wrong.  That might be just what someone said that summer day, when the two teenagers first met.  I’ll just bet not.

You see, that’s the problem with history.  You have to wait for it to happen before you can study it.  In its early days, it’s rather tough to pinpoint.  That’s why every year I more or less ignore the whole seasonal ‘where Halloween came from’ or ‘the real roots of Christmas’.  Fact is, we don’t know.  We can guess.  We can try to arrange pieces to the puzzle.  But there will always be the missing pieces that allow for a tremendous amount of interpretation on our part.  There will be enough wiggle room to focus on this scrap of evidence or dismiss that other account over there.  Which is why you can often tell more about the historian in question than the history he or she is writing about.

On the flip side, it also reminds us that many of the big headliners of history began rather innocuously.  The first time Portuguese traders in Africa said, “You know, these few Africans might make easy slave labor’, probably didn’t seem like more than a moral lapse in an obscure corner of the world.  It’s likely that the world cared far more about the Senate’s ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact that January day than the fact that a family named King gave birth to a baby they would name Martin.

Heck, in the early 1930s, how many leaders and pundits met the rise of a European leader who sported a Charlie Chaplin mustache with disdain and humor?   A decade later, not many were laughing.

That’s history for you.  The trick isn’t to obsess about the past to the point of missing the present.  The point isn’t to dismiss the small things of the present because they seem small.  The trick is to avoid repeating the problems of the past by using the past to recognize potential mischief in the present (whew).

Just a fun thought while confined to typing with one hand.  Happy weekend.

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