Sunday, January 21, 2007

Modern-Day Middle Ages

I know the Middle Ages weren't so hot. People lived in squalor and died of germs and ate gruel amongst the pigs. But then again, if the Middle Ages were so bad, where did all that beautiful art come from? I wish that today, people dreamed big enough outside of their windowless cubicles and postage-stamp-sized front lawns to tell modern-day Arthurian legends. I wish that they performed acoustic music that was never, ever recorded or even written down--just music out of someone's memory and remembered by everyone as a moment never to be repeated. I wish we used beautiful words like thee and thou and hight. I wish we only did one or two things every day, that we hung out with our friends more, that we walked more than drove, that silence was a fact of life. That minutes meant something. That we were proud of the work of our hands. That we were buried in real graveyards with beautiful hand-carved stones. That we didn't miss all the fun because we were too busy taking pictures.

And if you are tempted to comment with some nasty statistics about how most people in the Middle Ages were actually poor downtrodden miserable souls, I beg you to refrain. I really find it hard to believe that they were any more miserable than us, flooded in fluorescent lighting and eating artificial colors and flavors.

3 comments:

john C. said...

Historians in general have mostly fled the field of battle when it comes to history-as-story-of-progress, much to my relief. It's the progress narrative that gives us the "dark ages broke through to glorious light with the dawn of the modern age", which is really the invention of the Enlightenment ideologues. Boy, they didn't see World Wars coming, did they?

At any rate, I'd like to add one little thing to your catalogue of things to miss: that's dark skies at night. If cities were quiet (except for the dogs and roosters and a few lunatics) and all the lights were out (except those held by the night watchmen), we'd be able to stand in the middle of a street and gaze into the heavens and gape with delight. Try it now--you can barely see it! I saw a sub-equatorial sky in Iquitos, Peru in 2002 and 2005. We were miles from the nearest electric light, and the milky-way was clearly visible from horizon to horizon. I suspect Luther, that man who bridged the medieval and the early modern, saw the same thing...albeit from a more northerly latitude. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love it Lee Ann & I totally agree! I'll be in Leesburg April 6 for an interview. We should get together!!
-Ceste

sarah said...

Maybe they created beauty in the Middle Ages because they needed to have something to hang on to in the dark...