It is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives; and in the most illustrious deeds there is not always a manifestation of virtue or vice, nay, a slight thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of character than battles where thousands fall, or the greatest armaments, or siege of cities… (Plutarch, Alexander 1)*
Those first few words, “It is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives;…” really stood out to me when I read them earlier this week.
The connection with writing is most probably one of the reasons why, however, I think there was a more primary or prominent reason.
For me, it was that it highlighted that we are dealing with people, and there lives. Not just historical facts, exploits, data. Real, breathing, people. With so much more behind the figures and summaries of ourselves that are presented or highlighted in the interactions of daily life. Interactions, that can be static, fleeting, or if circumstances and connection allows, ongoing.
In a changing world, with minor to major misunderstandings, disagreements, and conflicts happening locally and globally, it is an important reminder that we need to remember to see each other as people. All of us trying to live our lives and make something of this thing called life.
While writing this, I’ve been reminded of the sentiments of one of my cousins on Remembrance Sunday a few weeks back. I feel it has resonance with today’s post. She was commenting in response to one of the ways in which the day was going to be commemorated:
“The fleeting nature of the portraits, speaks to how for most of us -with no direct connection to those that fought in the wars- remember on a day like today for the most part and then we forget until next year… I think the world has forgotten the same divisive rhetoric we are experiencing today, is the same kind of BS that led up to WWI and the millions of people that lost their lives”
You can check out the commemoration she was responding to here.
*Excerpt From: The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context, Burge, Gary M.
~ Full quote:
It is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives; and in the most illustrious deeds there is not always a manifestation of virtue or vice, nay, a slight thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of character than battles where thousands fall, or the greatest armaments, or siege of cities. Accordingly, just as painters get the likenesses in their portraits from the face and the expression of the eyes, wherein the character shows itself, but make very little account of the other parts of the body, so I must be permitted to devote myself rather to the signs of the soul in men, and by means of these to portray the life of each, leaving to others the description of their great contests. (Plutarch, Alexander 1)