Books/Portals Of The Past

Egypt picRosie the riveter

I was reading a book yesterday, curled up in my favorite easy chair, and the thought struck me, how many people still read books today? It is a hectic, fast paced world we live in today, with a million things happening all at once and time is always at a premium….But books to me have always been a gateway to the fantasy world of the imagination, giving me the power to travel through time, to revisit pivotal battlefields like in the Civil or Revolutionary wars, to discover what it was like to live in medieval times….The possibilities are endless…

I have to confess, I rarely have time to read the daily newspaper myself anymore, although I buy one every day to follow my beloved sports teams, the San Francisco Giants, the NBA Championship bound Warriors, and the fallen by the roadside San Francisco 49ers…I ALWAYS make time to read the sports page every day, but seldom read about or listen to even the local news….

But I am thinking that most people these days do not really read at all….They keep up on current events with the local news, or some of my friends are news junkies and have their TV permanently turned on to all news, all the time channels like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC…..They receive the news of the world in carefully edited, tailored sound bites, and the broadcasts are of course slanted to the right wing conservative or the left wing liberal viewpoints…

Of course if you are THAT dedicated to the news and worry about every blessed thing that happens all over the world, you can also keep up every time you go online and check out the latest happenings…But this is not really reading for fun, or entertainment, to me, it is more like getting a daily or hourly injection of current events…

This constant barrage of daily mostly bad news just makes me edgy and nervous, and I yearn to return to a simpler, less stressful time through the magic of books, although of course it was hectic enough at the time it happened, and just as real and meaningful to those involved…But by reading a book about a certain time period, you gain the invaluable perspective of time and always know how everything turns out, with the added viewpoint of how it seemed at the time…

What I am talking about is the sheer and total release from this current space and time, with all it’s care and worries, and escaping like Alice through the looking glass into an alternate universe of infinite possibilities …I read for the pure pleasure of reading, for being able to go to places and times that would otherwise be forever inaccessible to me…

I read adventure stories, of brave long ago battles, of kings and queens, of knights clashing on a darkling plain in a battle that has no real ending, because there is always another war, another faction fighting for political supremacy, but they still live and die by the results….My favorite genre is historical fiction, because then I can almost be a participant in the great events that have shaped our history and by extension, formed our modern world…

Strangely to me, most people hate reading history books, and I can understand that if it is just a dull recitation of dates and place names, like it is regrettably taught in most schools…This is a shame and explains why most people don’t like history, and shy away from any mention of it….

But if you read historical fiction, it not only portrays actual historical events but also breathes life into the characters, makes you really understand and feel what daily life must have been like under the fledgling government of ancient Egypt or  Rome, or the development of modern Europe through visiting medieval England during the reign of King Henry VIII or his daughter, the original Queen Elizabeth, among the most historically significant female rulers of all time, or the frenzied madness of the French Revolution….

In more modern times I have always had a strong fascination for the Revolutionary and Civil wars, or WW1 and WWII….What was it really like on the home front while the “Greatest Generation” fought overseas from once isolated Fortress America, the mostly female American population existing on strict food rationing and always going on metal or newspaper or rubber tire drives, to raise their families virtually alone since nearly every bodied male was drafted into the Armed Forces for 5 long years…

WWII especially was a demarcation point in woman’s liberation, this was where the seeds were planted for the sprouting of the feminist movement of the 1960’s with articulate leaders like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan…Women were forced to discover the new world of work, before closed off to them as they were relegated to the role of housewives and homemakers….

But change was in the air, ala “Rosie the Riveter,” women working on assembly lines building ships and planes, or by working in munitions plants or just plain working at many former male dominated jobs out of sheer necessity to put food on the table….WWII changed male/female relations in America forever…..

All of these facts I find fascinating and relevant to me and to you in today’s world…They are NOT just some dusty, obscure collection of dates and place names…By accessing the world of books, by allowing yourself the luxury of escaping from the here and now, either through reading paperbacks, hard cover books or on the electronic Kindles or tablets so prevalent today, you can free your mind to wander far and wide, to visit places and times otherwise long gone and far away, your mind can travel wherever it wants to…..

I know time is precious and there are just not enough hours in the day for most people, but now more than ever before we have access to every time period that ever existed…To me, historical fiction is almost the same as science fiction, except that it is all based on fact…You might want to take some time, put away an hour or so every day or two and escape from the here and now and discover these magical realms yourself…

One thing is sure, whether you choose to read or not, as the Spanish American author/philosopher George Santayana famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Just leave it like it is right now

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