Tag Archives: Story Starters

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.


How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted?

I was having lunch at the local burger place when I saw the title above being flashed as a small sign on wall during a national TV sports show. It did not seem to be part of any sports story. Perhaps you came to this site because you searched the Internet for an explanation of the question. I searched and found an answer for myself.

I am tagging this as Story-Starter because it reminded me of a local highway. Well it is local in my neighborhood, but it could be local in your neighborhood or many neighborhoods across America. Here the highway has been labeled The Christopher Columbus Highway. Christopher Columbus, as you may know, thought he had discovered islands near an old continent. Well, not an old continent exactly, as the earth is young, but a previously known continent. It was not until his third or fourth voyage that Columbus and one of his mates started to suspect they were looking at an unknown continent. They were actually exploring South American as it would come to be known. Columbus discovered many of the Caribbean islands, including Cuba. Cuba was so large that Columbus mistook it for a continent. He never quite got to Florida.

If Columbus had been born later, he might have landed in Florida and heart heard of another distant shore. He might have traveled from the Sunshine State to the Golden State. Columbus was looking for gold, of course, and he would have traveled west looking for Beverly Hills. He kept looking for mythological golden cities, so it would make sense to look for the city in California of which it has been said, “All the gold in California is in a bank in Beverly Hills.” The myths Columbus sought had less foundation in fact.

OK, so if Columbus had done all that, it might make sense to name Interstate-10 “The Christopher Columbus Highway.” But let’s take a moment to learn about the sailors who found North America (probably not the first to do so). There is a rock near Newport, Rhode Island, that is engraved (in translation), “Sailors of Tarshish.” That is a standard way of establishing your arrival on landing and also, more than likely, the formula for claiming early in history. Tarshish was a city on the Iberian Peninsula. The Mediterranean Sea was blocked off to exit by other maritime kingdoms by 800 B. C. This has caused historians to date the stone engraving in Newport, Rhode Island as before 800 B. C.

Is there another way to date the inscription? Possibly. Tarshish is mentioned a number of times in the Bible.

  • Genesis 10:4 — Tarshish was a son of Javan, a son of Japheth, a son of Noah. Javan was the founder of Japan. Some of his descendants settled in what became Germany had have been erroneously labeled Levantines.
  • 1 Kings 10:22 — For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three year’s bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
  • 1 Kings 22:48 — Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
  • 2 Chronicles 10:37 — … And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
  • Esther 1:14 — Tarshish a prince of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s face.
  • Psalm 48, not a Psalm of David — 48:7 — With the east wind Thou dost break the ships of Tarshish.

That Tarshish was mentioned in Psalms hints that the sailors of Tarshish were know as early as early as David’s time. However, this is not a Psalm of David. It is a psalm of the sons of Korah. Korah was destroyed in Moses’ time, but a few were spared and became servants of David, in fact an important division of his military. (see How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted? http://www.gotquestions.org/sons-of-Korah.html viewed 2015-11-25). So while the psalm was not written by King David, it is more than likely to have been written by one of his contemporaries. The bottom line is that it appears that sailors from Tarshish were blown ashore at least by the time of King David who reigned about 1000 to 960 BC. Columbus was not only born too soon, he was born too late!

Since the descendants of the sailors from Tarshish, or other later immigrants from Tarshish now live in California and south into Mexico, it probably is time to tell Interstate-10 it is adopted. It really should be named the Sailors of Tarshish Highway. (and maybe we should apply to the present day Tartessians for green cards instead of requiring them to have them.)


Story Starters — Truncated Headlines

Once upon a time and not so very long ago, there was a Supreme Court decision that was very important among the people. The case was duly reported by the drive-by media, but some simple people like myself only caught part of the title and almost none of the content of the decision.

The case in question called forth the court’s final answer on same sex marriages. The decision overturned parts of laws passed by some states to limit the right of same-sex couple to marry. The headline as my puny mind absorbed it read like this:

Supreme court overrules (all) state laws regulating marriage.

The headline should have read:

Supreme court overrules state laws restricting the rights of same sex couples to marry.

You can see there is a major difference between what my mind remembered from the news and what the court issued in its decision. I kept watching the news waiting to see the fall out of all the state practices pertaining to marriage.

What if the first headline as I remembered it had become the real case? What are the domains included in state marriage laws? As you begin with the truncated headline, you realize that state marriage laws include issuance and registration of licenses, performance of wedding ceremonies and registration of officials licensed to perform the ceremonies. Divorce and property settlement are part of marriage law. State classification as common-law or community-property law states is part of marriage law. Intestate succession makes Probate a part of the body of marriage law.

Some state laws pertaining to marriage were acquired by treaty. Treaty law is outside the jurisdiction of the court, so the states that got community-property by treaty would remain community property states. These states have no common law marriage, so they would have then had no way to offer marriages. Want equal protection? Zap, now nobody can get married.

OK, you could have still gotten married. In D.C.! or by contract of marriage and using a Federal Official like a military chaplain.

Now. aren’t you really glad that the news was better than the headline? We still have all our former state laws, AND more citizens have equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. I take back everything I said about the Supreme Court based on that puny truncated headline. It was a good decision, public complaints not withstanding.

This is where we should be able to end the story by saying the same-sex couples all got married and everyone lived happily ever-after (or at least until they died).

The truth is something went very, very wrong. Same sex couples needed wedding services. Persons to officiate a ceremony, people to make dresses and cakes. This is were things began to go South. Some people in the service industries believed that there services were part of their religious practice. They thought they should be able to perform or not perform based on freedom of religion. Seems reasonable. But people blazing new social trails are seldom reasonable.

Ordinary people like me and you were taken to court for expressing their religious faith. They were marked as criminals, much as Jews in Germany were forced to wear yellow stars. Much as Hitler rounded up Jehovah’s Witnesses before his war. Forcing people to do a service that goes beyond their personal religious faith has the smell of the establishment of religion. It is a lot like the Spanish Inquisition. If you can accept with me that forcing people to perform religious acts against their own belief system, you have to accept that these court cases in effect were a violation of civil rights and an unlawful establishment of religion.

Inasmuch as the courts and some of the prosecutors were paid out of funds appropriated by Congress, the cost of these trials was unlawful. The Congressional Office of Management and Budget should make a survey and see who and where Justice funds were unlawfully used. Further, 1) the prosecuting attorneys should repay to the treasury their salaries for the cases, and the costs of the court; 2) the defendants should receive their reasonable defense cost plus fifty percent for loss of normal income while defending themselves.

The congress should act quickly to right this great wrong. The President should consider setting up a special prosecutor. If he fails to do so, this may become an issue for the coming presidential elections. They great wrong done by these unlawful prosecutions has done more harm to the faith of the people in government and more damage to their civil rights that the September 11 hijackings. But in this case our ship of state has been hijacked by attorneys in our federal courts.

Can we get past this and live happily ever after? Please reach out and share your own need for freedom. Can you perhaps set another human being free?

Story Starters – Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, and longer ago than I like to admit, I wrote story starter ideas on 3 by 5 cards and tossed them into shoe boxes. Now that I have been reading for some time in the Kindle format, I have been highlighting how stories begin in collections of stories and fairy tales.

In some of the volumes of Andrew Lang’s volumes of fairy tales there are many ancient tales that begin in original styles. The boiler-plate beginnings belong to a later era in literature.

Sometimes a story actually comes in different versions. There are two versions of the three bears. In the familiar story it involves a young girl named Goldilocks. Apparently the original tale involved an older homeless woman. Perhaps the later teller of the tale should begin thusly, “Twice upon a time….”