September 5, 2017

Their History Matters to Them

Sculpture: "The Last Voyage"

I recently came across an online discussion about whether or not the Israelites were ever really slaves in Egypt. There's a lot of scholarship on this subject, and it's fascinating to read about the archeological evidence (or lack thereof) for the Hebrew Bible. But I find it even more interesting to think about how the history of this small ethnic group is now known the world over.

I don't find it at all surprising that the Egyptians didn't corroborate a lot of the stories from the Hebrew Bible in their own writings. After all, why would they? They were large and powerful monarchies, and with the effort and expense required to actually write things down 4,000 years ago, why would they waste any of that on stories about a fragment of the slave or migrant population? There were thousands of people who migrated through Egypt's kingdoms back then.

The history of the Israelites (or people who eventually became the Israelites) just didn't matter to the Egyptian ruling class. But it mattered to the Israelites. They carefully preserved the stories of their ancestors, passing them down orally and eventually in written form. As a migrant people, history and shared culture was all they had.

Now, one of the great ironies of history, in my mind, is that many people the world over who have no Hebrew ancestry can list the rulers of Israel and recite stories from their histories; while few beyond scholars can name more than a couple of Egyptian pharoahs. In fact, a lot of people only know Egyptian history through the lens of the Hebrew Bible.

Millennia later, the unimportant migrants, the slaves, are known worldwide. Their histories are just as important as those of the great kingdoms where they toiled anonymously. I wonder, who are the Israelites among us now? Which ignored, marginalized people are carefully recording their own stories from their own perspective - stories those in power aren't even aware of.

A thousand years from now, the people in power now might either be forgotten or else known primarily through the stories of the ones they enslaved and mistreated. It's a good reminder not to discount people's points of view just because they aren't the ones in charge.

September 4, 2017

The Definition of "Free"

photo by Amy Claxton

When I first started this blog, I intended it as a place where I could share ideas that I thought were useful but that I didn't really know what to do with. "Free Ideas" meant ideas that I was sharing for free, without cost.

Over the years, however, I've found that while my head is as full of ideas as ever, not all of them are useful. Many of them are simply persistent, connections or stories or images that, once created, seem to want to rattle around in my brain, getting in the way of my thinking about more important stuff.

So I've decided to free these ideas trapped in my head. "Free Ideas" now means a place to set free all the thoughts clogging my mind, a place to purge my brain. For anyone reading this blog, you likely won't notice much difference except that the frequency of posting should increase.

For me, I hope that this change in focus will help me get better at turning invisible ideas into visible creations. I tend to be satisfied with the creation of a story or a song or anything else simply in my own head, and don't need (or even want, most of the time) the validation that comes with sharing it with a wider audience. However, as I get older, I've realized that I don't want everything I've created to die with me, so I need to get it out of my head somehow.

Hopefully, posting here will be a start.

May 24, 2017

Poem: I Was a Teenage Moth

Me on the last day of 8th grade

I covered myself with plastic chains,
Rocks and beads, embroidery thread,
Glitter paint, and soda can tabs.
I wrapped my body in ripped jeans
And t-shirts stamped
With symbols of my tribe.
So cocooned, I pupated,
Relying on my outer shell
To tell the world
Exactly who I was,
Who I wanted to be.
Inside, I gradually developed
A heart, a spine, a prefrontal cortex:
Each new organ dearly bought
And painfully grown.
At last, I realized I had emerged
The day I found
Pieces of my cocoon
Neatly boxed up and put away
As mementos from a time
When I wore my inner self
On the outside.