This week I went to see Woman in Gold, yet another book made into yet another film. But that’s not what this blog is about. Although Woman in Gold is a very moving true story that I had never heard before. Afterwards my wife and I talked about the importance of people today, especially young people, being informed and remembering this tumultuous time in world history.
WWII is a deep scar on our history. The Holocaust still causes, at the very least, great discomfort when we consider the brutality and hatred that was directed towards the Jewish people. And tragically mankind still acts out in horrific displays of aggression yet today.
So do we, as a people, need constant reminders of these historic events? Of course we do. It helps us take our eyes off of ourselves, even for a moment, and afterwards consider our place in this current, modern world. It's good to be reminded of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of difficult times. Those stories serve to encourage us in our own struggles, even our day-to-day ones.
How much has our national pride, so prevalent after 9/11, faded over these past years? How many of our young people, who were either too young to remember, or not yet born, consider the significance of that day? Although I had an editor from New York City tell me last year that it's difficult for them to deal with the stories from 9/11, and some are not ready to do so. And there are a lot of stories, and editors, in New York.
So here’s my point: We need to keep finding, and writing the stories of those that have been, in some way, involved in the events that, for better or for worse, have been so transformational in human history. Society is strengthened by knowing and appreciating the personal stories of significant events. That’s what keeps history from becoming dates, places and names.
Years ago I found an old hardcover copy of W.E. Woodward’s The Way Our People Lived. It was not a ‘fast read’, but the author accurately recounts the lifestyles of those who lived in the early and middle parts of American history. As a youngster I remember reading some of Laura Wilder’s Little House books. My strongest memory of those books is how happy she was to get an orange for Christmas. I wanted Hot Wheels. The years eventually gave way to books like The Hiding Place, God’s Smuggler, and The Diary of Anne Frank. In my school years I also read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and though it’s a novel, it portrays the aggressions of the Soviet totalitarian regime against its citizens.
Recently I read music producer Daniel Lanois’ memoir, Soul Mining. His accounts of working with musicians like U2 and Bob Dylan were cool, but his recollections of growing up in Quebec in the 50’s and 60’s were really fascinating. There was nothing of history-altering significance, but still it showed me another slice of life, in another part of the globe, that I was not familiar with. And of course it was fascinating to read about the technology that was available to him in the 70's and 80's for recording music. And those small bites of historical information were pretty satisfying. And it's probably safe to say that Lanois' own young history molded him into both the man and the successful musician and producer that he was to become. It reminds us of the significance of back story.
So am I history buff? Maybe more a fan. Maybe I just like the stories.
John ends his Gospel with“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
John wrote about what Jesus did, so that future readers would know Jesus and what He did – the single most important person in all of human history.
If you, as a writer, are able to take a moment in time and let someone's story live again on the written page, you will be adding color and texture to the fabric of our history.