Sunday, March 14, 2010
Waiting On The Past
I volunteered to work two days a week at the Cunningham Museum in Lancaster, Wisconsin. This is a historical museum operated by the county historical society. They operate on a shoe string budget, and try to preserve the history of the people who live here. I sit in the museum for hours. People walk by and never even glance my way. It is like the photos I review to pass the time. These photos, of this town, were taken over one hundred years ago. People strolling down the street, old men sitting in front of stores watching the passing scene.
Few dwell upon the shortness of their time on earth. If they are lucky, someone may take a photo while they pass and a hundred years from now someone like me may look in on a bygone day, may gaze in on the life of someone known but to God. Why is it that most of us fear to look into the face of the past? Is it simple disinterest or is there a real fear associated with the avoidance? we see ourselves when we visit this or any other historical museum. We see bits and pieces of what others now long dead held, wore, read, and treasured. It is sometimes too much to think of our place in time - of the shortness of our lives - of the small impression we make on events of our time. It sometimes seems that we make no impression at all on the future. Is that true?
I have spent some time thinking about the way I am and the beliefs I hold. Where did these come from? When I look into the past of my family and lands of my ancestors I begin to see threads connecting me to my ancestral past. Why was my great grandfather Wallace so anti-catholic that he reputedly joined the Ku Klux Klan? He was born in Northern Ireland, but always said he was Scotch. To know why he was as he was read the history of the troubles in that land. My family are overwhelmingly protestant fundamentalists, who believe in baptism by immersion. To find out why that may be read about Alexander Carson, who was minister in Tobermore, the village my great grandfather came from in the 1870's. Carson wrote one of the most influential books advocating adult baptism by immersion.
So what is my impact to be in the years after the physical being is over? Simply stated, I have no idea, but I believe that there will be echoes of me in my children and grandchildren, and that is the pull of history. History is inescapable and its record grows endlessly. Maybe one of these days, just out of curiosity, one of those passing by will stop and take a look at the museum. Maybe that visit will help them to find themselves.