People have a way of looking back at their past and painting it in golden hues.
“Those were the best days of our lives” they say, as if that isn’t just the most depressing thing to utter about your present situation. “Those were the days!”
It’s hard not to get carried away by nostalgia sometimes. You remember people more fondly, events more kindly, and the minor details that might cast shadows on a memory tend to disappear in the light given off by the time that has elapsed in between. We all do it. I do it. I even do it with history that isn’t my own.
I have a fascination with ancient civilisations. The myths and legends and stories of the past capture my imagination like nothing else. When I was a child, it was Norse, Greek, and Celtic mythology. I loved Loki* and Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse. I loved Greek mythology because the gods and heroes were flawed, like people are, and didn’t always make good choices**. Celtic mythology is morose and tragic and almost everybody dies which, while not cheerful, is definitely compelling. You know there’s always a good bit at stake in a Celtic myth. It’s rare that someone doesn’t end up dashing their head off a rock a la Deirdre of the Sorrows or impaled by spears like Cú Chulainn. I also read about South American mythology and Egyptian mythology. I had a book that laid out all the old religions of the world, and I practically inhaled the stories.
From Roman and Egyptian mythology, it was a small slide-step into reading about Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, gladiators and sacred cats, gymnasiums and Isis temples.
There is something mind-boggling about the fact that thousands of years ago, people were living their lives much the way we live our lives now, only without selfies or social media. They had religion, they had beliefs and values and societies and political intrigue. Rome even had its own version of a tabloid journalist in the shape of Cicero. Life was much sketchier then considering the amount of poisonings and stabbings and decapitations and general mayhem that was happening on the regular, and of course a lot darker and dirtier without modern sanitation or electric light, but they had parties and luxury and in some ways more magic than we could ever have now. Not everything could be explained. Not all questions could be answered by Google. Instead they had oracles, and soothsayers, and Gods, and monsters, and legendary leaders, and plenty of entertaining drama to brighten their days, with or without the lightbulb.
Of course – of course – I’m doing that thing again, where I colour the past in a rosy glow while conveniently forgetting about things like the bubonic plague, or the fact that people were being burnt at the stake, or that women had no rights and were traded like cattle for social mobility… I mean, I would love to see the ancient city of Alexandria, but probably only from Cleopatra’s perspective. Maybe from the balcony of her onyx and marble palace, looking out at the Pharos? It sounds wonderful to be throwing parties were the floor is laid with roses until they’re knee deep and you have lights strung through the trees and you get to dress up like the goddess an awful lot of people already think you are.
Then again, I don’t think I’d like it half as much from the perspective of a sickly Egyptian slave, sweltering in the sun. Even Cleopatra, with all her wealth and power, felt forced into suicide after everything went pear-shaped on the back of her political maneuvers…
… So maybe there’s something to be said for the present after all.
After all, it’s not so bad to be lying on a sun lounger in a pool of water, typing away on a device that can teach me almost anything I could want to know, without any danger of someone poisoning my food. I’m also not at all concerned about the black death, and I have to concede that I am exceedingly grateful for modern plumbing.
And on that note, I’m off for a shower! Time to climb on board a metal tube (another wonder of the modern age) and fly through the air at hundreds of miles an hour to my country, which is half a world away!
*Now I look back and realise he was the ‘IT’S JUST A PRANK BRO!’ OG. I mean that trick he played killing that guy with the sprig of mistletoe? Ice cold.
**Zeus I’m looking at you. Rape by swan is never okay.
Back to regular scheduled programming on Monday once I’m back in cloudy Ireland! Looking forward to catching up on blogs and comments!