All of History is a Story

There are stories for every person, every conflict. A person tells his life as he or she sees it. People around them see and will tell a slightly different view of the first teller. Two litigants at court will sit in the same witness box and each tell a different version of the story they have come to tell. History is no different than the small stories of our personal lives. Big stories just have more observers, so the story becomes more complex.

As stories become more complex they tend to be mysterious. Part of the mystery is the lack of access to some of the witnesses over time, and the later appearance of others who previously were not know to be part of the story. Andrew Lang collected historical mysteries and included the stories in his Historical Mysteries. He even wrote about some of the mysteries more extensively in other volumes. Of particular interest as a big of background color to a developing nation of religious refugees is his James VI and the Gowrie Mystery. And again as background to King James, read John Knox and the Reformation. I have wanted to create a history of the reformation. As I have been reading I find it impossible to separate facets of history. History is one story with many facets.

When you begin reading history you feel you are wading into a small stream. Then you wade into another stream and find a connection. It is the same water traveled years or centuries down the stream bed, but now the stories connect and become a river. A small sample, Robin Hood for years was just a fun book for children, particularly boys. The story tells how Robin robs monks to get money to pay for the ransom of King Richard. Then you read about Gutenberg and how he came to create his printing press. The background of Gutenberg’s Germany explains Richard’s experience and being held for ransom centuries later. Two literary creeks have joined to become a river. Then you find a new release of Robin Hood that names the knights who traveled with Richard, and you recognize that one of the knights is your own ancestor. The river you read has become the ocean you swim.

Sometimes the stories you read are various sides of one story. Not all the stories about the event match. One story says there were no survivors. The other view says there were hundreds. Beyond a reasonable doubt these are different stories and both true. How do you reconcile the difference? And seeing two or three versions of the event, have you seen all? This is your task, to find or create a story to explain the differences and perhaps to find a missing view. You now must dive into the ocean of unknown and create your own point of view, a raft of understanding to keep you afloat in the mystery of life.


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