First, I have to admit that I have been anything but engaged in current politics and I love to engage in artistic thinking which inspires my art. So what I am going to write about politics is not something current but something that happened 1500 or so years ago, because I have a good friend who quoted George Santayana to me the other day “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. As far as I can tell we’ve been repeating it over and over!
Earlier this year I stumbled on a lost figure in history, Hypatia of Alexandria Egypt who was a supporter of Greek scientific rational thought. Finding her story interesting and compelling I then read the historical novel “Remembering Hypatia”. It was just before the dark ages descended upon the world and so much of history was lost. Almost all of the books she had written were destroyed, but some letters survived. To me it was one of those great “crimes” in history, both in her murder and in the destruction of her work. Maybe because she was a woman who was so highly revered by her contemporaries and so good at mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy that I am enchanted by her. Her murder coincided with the death of learning and science which some early Christians identified with paganism. In 391 A.D., the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria, was burned by a crowd of fanatic Nitrian monks under the leadership of the Christian Archbishop Theophilus. Hypatias death marked the end of progress in science for years until the spirit of ancient Greece started again and the Renaissance was born. (Exerts taken from this site).
One can cast blame on a group of people for a wrong done, but the history of humanity is one in which good people sometimes do bad things and bad people sometimes do good things, the real trouble arises when a huge group adopt a destructive mindset. I keep thinking: What do we really want? More stuff? Faster cars? For everyone to believe the same thing? Really, believe the same thing?
It seems extremists like to target strong women. I don’t think it’s really about religion either. I think it goes something like this, “if you don’t stay in your place which is the home, we’re going to shot you.” (extremist thinking) And then the truth is there is some deep desire to protect their linage, because if women don’t stay home and take care of the kids, who will, they certainly can’t be bothered (the extremists, not my husband). Because in truth for our species having kids is one of the most important things there is—no one would be here in the future if we didn’t, our species would die. Right now though we’re not a bit short on people! Culture is the all important factor, we have a different culture than they do but we’re all still of the same species.
If you look carefully at that time in history, 1800 years ago, there are many similarities to this time period. Some examples; The young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, who was shot for promoting education. The US ambassador to Libya and others who were murdered over a movie. It’s just that the shoe is on a different foot, now it’s the Taliban and Al Queda instead of Christians and Nitrian Monks. In order for us to not keep repeating history we need to ask the hard questions and take a look at our own dark history, because in truth we are one world and people are people.
Strangely enough I just by chance happened to hear this show on NPR a couple of days ago about how they are searching through the manuscripts at Saint Catherines monastery in Egypt with high tech equipment that show previously lost writings on the manuscripts (it was to time consuming and expensive to make parchment and then just throw it away, so they reused it). And interestingly enough Saint Catherine is thought by some to actually have been Hypatia—see because a lot of Christian’s at the time loved her too. So, maybe our world will be graced by the lost writings of Hypatia, if we are lucky.
Civilization can be so fragile and a extremist mindset is a scary thing—and for really no good reason.
Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel, the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond. —Hypatia 415 A.D.