This morning I was spending some time studying for the CSET, a big test I'm taking on May 17th. It's one step along the way towards becoming a teacher. I have to take this series of three subtests to prove I know my stuff. The first test is on World History and Geography, the second is U.S. History and Geography, and the third is Economics/Government/California History and Geography. I'm taking them all May 17th and expect them to be a headache but I also expect to pass them.
Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, this morning while studying for the CSET I was once again struck by a thought that has occurred to me a number of times. As I read through the history of American Imperialism in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the struggle for Mexican independence, Russia's slow climb (descent?) into Bolshevism, China and Japan's eventual acceptance of foreign influence, and so on, I came across lots and lots of names. Benito Juarez, Santa Anna, Pancho Villa, Porfirio Diaz, Marie Curie, Alexander Graham Bell, Otto von Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm, Emperor Mutsuhito, The Dowager Empress Cixi, and so many more.
Each of these people was incredibly important in their time. Some accomplished much good, others much bad, most a bit of both. People knew who they were, they had power, they had influence, they had the kinds of things that supposedly make one's life worth living. I was struck by the finality of the words in this textbook as I read. These peoples' lives and accomplishments were boiled down into a sentence or two, or if they were particularly important they got a paragraph or a sidebar with a few paragraphs and some bullet points. They're gone, and I suppose the world is different for their having been here, but to most people they're simply a paragraph on a page. No matter what you accomplish - whether it's opening your nation to Western influence and beginning the process of modernization (like Emperor Mutsuhito) or being a soldier in a war where millions died over Nationalistic sentiments or being one of the 20 million who succumbed to the Influenza Epidemic in the early 20th century - that's it for your life. You're done, and at best you're a paragraph in a history book that very few people find interesting and fewer care about.
I don't usually read posts longer than this if I didn't write them or if they're really interesting, so I'm going to stop here and complete this thought in a separate entry, to be posted soon.