Digging up the Past

As a historian, I am interested in learning more about the past. When I was in middle school, I read a lot of books on the western islands in Greece because I wanted to learn more where the “real” Ithaca was. Why? I had just finished reading The Odyssey for the first time. We know there was a real Troy; we know there was a real Mycenae; so where is the real Ithaca? I followed all the latest archaeological research and watched every new documentary. If they turned up any new artifacts, I wanted to see. This was back in the early 1990s and it has been a while since I read the latest journals.

Not long after, I visited a town called Snowflake in northeast Arizona. It is in the mountains and closer to the Utah border. Now, when I visited in 1997, I was a high school senior. The locals told me the town was founded by two men – one named Snow, and the other named Flake. Whether they were joking or not, I never found out. Maybe it was named because it does snow there in the winters. Nevertheless, one of the locals took me and a few of my friends to his house. He took us to his backyard which backed to the mountains and said that if we looked carefully on the ground, we could find small pieces of Native American pottery shards dating to the 800s to the 1300s. At this point, I should emphasize that there are specific laws governing the discovery of Native American artifacts in each state. So no, I did not find any major artifacts but I did find a few pottery shards here and there. Just holding them in my hands was significant enough – to realize that the person who held this pot before me lived 800 years ago.

Unfortunately, pots are common enough. It could have been water, corn, maize and I really hope it was not a chamber pot.

I could continue and talk about all the new discoveries that are constantly changing history, or at least, create an even clearer picture of what truly happened. For example, after the Cold War ended and all the Russian documents were released, we gained a fuller picture of what the Kremlin was thinking. Or after World War 2, Allied historians gained access to Japanese documents and we also learned what the Imperial high command was really thinking. Historical research in a sense is nearly infinite because so much was either lost or never preserved in permanent media.

This raises an interesting question: Should anything stayed buried?

Usually, things that ought to stay buried are in the realm of science fiction, pseudo-history, and horror stories. Things that carry an ancient curse; a 4000 year old conspiracy, and so on. You can probably think of a book or movie or video game whose premise is built on one or more of those items. What about in real life?

Lately, I also see people digging up dirt on celebrities. They go back five, six years for old social media posts or Tweets, anything that they deem “socially unacceptable.” Even the popular Ken Jennings, the man who made a historic 74 day run on Jeopardy, when he was “vetted” for the Jeopardy host position as a successor to Alex Trebek, ran afoul of the Cancel Culture movement. He made a few posts that could be possibly demeaning towards one demographic. When I found out, my response: “Really? Who hasn’t posted something embarrassing? Who hasn’t expressed an opinion contrary to the mainstream? Who hasn’t posted something possibly demeaning towards one group of people, however innocent it was initially made?”

Old social media posts and tweets are one thing. What about something even more damaging?

I found that people, including myself, often burying their pain. We push down bitterness and failure. Shame reminds us that we ought to keep these thing buried. Unfortunately, unless we deal with our pain properly, we lurch around, trying to find something to dull the pain. It could be alcohol, substance, gambling, or even self-hurt; you know what you do in your heart so that you don’t have to experience pain anymore. However, just like a surgeon must cut you open to pull out all the dangerous clot, you have to get to the root of that pain.

Unfortunately, there is an additional wrinkle as we examine the past and that is the devil. Last week, blogger BeautyBeyondBones posted “https://beautybeyondbones.com/2021/09/27/the-devil-works-harder/. BBB related how her past and struggles can be thrown in her face. It ought not be a surprise to Christians. The devil is also known as the accuser of the brethren; his primary weapon is to accuse us before God. Somehow, he still has access to heaven where all he does is to dig up our past. He has a file that contains all my sins listed. I imagine he is constantly waving that file before God and in these days, the devil is probably overtime.

The converse is true; as BBB related, she constantly experiences the grace of God and how she found comfort in prayer. Just as the devil is working harder, so is God as he pours out his grace on his children.

I end with these questions: what happens when you dig up your past? What happens if you find things you don’t like? What happens when the things you thought were buried won’t stay buried?

For me, I do what my friend BBB does: pray and seek God’s grace and comfort.

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