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The Relativity of History

Updated on October 28, 2011
Amish Living
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Hundreds of years ago, history told us that the world was flat, until Columbus proved that our historical records and maps were mistaken. Before Copernicus could convince the world that the sun was actually the center of our universe, history told us that the planets in our solar system revolved around Earth.

So what is history? The dictionary will tell us that history is “a record or narrative description of past events.” Another definition would be that history is “all that is remembered of the past that is preserved in writing or through oral communication.” History can have different meanings to different cultures. One thing history is not to all traditions, however, is infallible.

We humans make up our own history as we see fit, and always have. We record what we believe we are experiencing and that written or oral record becomes history. But, what if what we believe we are experiencing isn’t what we really are experiencing at all? There was a remote tribe in Africa that believed one of our B-52 bomber planes of WWII was a god, and after it crashed in the jungle, they began worshiping the wreckage. So their history would indicate that God fell from the sky and had two wings and a tall tail. We all know that this is not a correct evaluation of the situation those people encountered in the 1940s, but this is what they believed, and the history the people who experienced the crash relayed to their children.

In the Bible Genesis 6:4 states that Angels (Nephilims) descended from the heavens and mated with human woman. "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." The word “nphiyl” is the Hebrew word meaning "giants". I don’t know about you all, but everything I’ve ever read about angels is that they are spiritual beings… not prone to mating with anyone! Because whoever visited Earth thousands of years ago came from the sky, the people of that time assumed they were sent by God, and had to be “angels” (Sons of God) and not alien beings from planets they knew nothing about.

Another element of mistaken historical fact is the reality that every time a story is told it changes slightly. Some of recorded history was written down after many years of it being oral narratives told for generations by our ancestors. Have you ever played the party game where a group of guests sit in a large circle and than someone in the circle whispers a short story to the person next to them? The next person is supposed to pass on the same story to the person to his/her left. That person does the same to the person sitting next to them and the process continues until the story gets whispered back to the original story teller. By the time the story gets back to the person who originated it, it ends up being almost indiscernible from the original story.

An additional factor is the case of people purposely changing history to suit their own needs and interests. We know for a fact that this has occurred on numerous occasions. If a person killed himself, the embarrassed relatives might purposely alter the facts and tell everyone that the person died of a heart attack instead of an overdose of pills. I have experienced a personal example of this very event. When I was a young girl my grandmother told me that her father had been an alcoholic and drank away his paycheck every week. She also told me that one day he left the family and never returned. I didn’t find out until long after my dear grandmother had passed and I was researching my family’s genealogy (history) that my grandmother’s father actually shot himself in the head and died in my great-grandmothers lap. I read the article that was published in the 1897 newspaper of the event. My grandmother purposely changed history because she was embarrassed or because she didn’t want her granddaughter to know that her great-grandfather had committed suicide. It was an understandable lie, but history was still altered. If I had not decided to venture down the path of genealogy, my family would have never known the real truth to our family’s past events. All genealogists understand that one of the most difficult tasks they face is untangling the mystery of their family’s true last name. Hundreds of people immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s from Europe had their names changed by the immigration agents who processed them on Ellis Island.

The supposedly holiest man on the planet, an ancient Pope, was also a perpetrator of altering history. Most references to reincarnation in the Old and New Testaments were removed from the Bible at the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea in Constantinople in A.D. 553 by order of the reigning pope and the Roman Emperor Constantinople (along with his mother, Helena). So, generations reading the Bible after that change would have no idea that the book had been purposely altered because a corrupt pope and Emperor did not want to face up to the repercussions of their many indiscretions and to solidify Church control.. What made them believe that if they changed history they could escape karmic justice is beyond comprehension.

Newspaper reporters have been known to alter facts in order for a story to sell more newspapers or to perpetrate a cover-up. (Is there really anyone still out there who believes the wreckage recovered at Roswell, NM in 1947 was debris from a weather balloon?) Authors might distort data in one way or another in order to make a story seem more exciting in order to sell more books. Did George Washington actually chop down his father’s cherry tree, or did the event merely appear in a popular newspaper cartoon of the period and afterwards become fact?

So, I’ll ask again, what is history? I would define history as “information that has been recorded throughout time that may or may not be a true expression of what actually happened.” Most people understand that just because information is presented on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true… the same can be said for reading about events from a history book. If an event has not been experienced first hand, then it cannot be deemed as 100% true. I believe myths have some part of truth to them, and that the “myth” is actually a record of what someone actually experienced. The original experience might have been altered over time and the telling, but every myth must be based on some truth. (People cannot imagine what they haven’t experienced.) After all, history is relative.


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