Share and Tell

At the chatty breakfast table after the previous day had been spent apart, Manny and Selma felt a rising need for small talk and a mutual desire to reconnect. She had spent the entire day lost in the University Library while Manny was out on the town. He interrupted the conversational flurry with,

“It was amazing!”

“What was amazing, pray tell?”

“How an afternoon at a museum can be entertaining and time- consuming at the same time.”

“And a real learning experience, as well, I presume. My time at the library was.”

“I’ll bite. What did you find out that was both time-consuming and educational?”

“ It took me at least a couple of hours to find out that what I was looking for wasn’t filed under E.”

“Where was it filed then?”

“Under S. By asking a librarian, I found out that in the Netherlands, one of the most important and radical of modern philosophers was a Portuguese Jew with the family name of Spinoza. Anyhow, tomorrow’s research will be easier now that I know where to search.”

“Well my trip to the American Pilgrim Museum didn’t involve the alphabet and it was very well organized and fun to look at and read about.”

“I guess we were both pilgrims of a different sort today, Manny.”

“OK, you can be Billy Pilgrim. Just remember that movement, however slight towards an achievable goal is success, and I hope we don’t both end up in Slaughterhouse Five.

“ I guarantee we won’t! So tell me about your day.”

“Well, I wandered around for awhile and finally found the American Pilgrim Museum. The building that houses the records was built in 1365. The museum itself has a lot of information about the house and how the Pilgrim’s lived in England, in Leiden and New England, too. The maps and engravings from that period alone are a mine of information. Seeing what they had and didn’t have makes their journey and quest for religious freedom look like a monumental endeavor. It’s fascinating to learn how people’s beliefs motivate and move them through such a complex change of living conditions. Maybe you can squeeze some of that stuff into your dissertation.”

“That would require quite a stretch, Manny, but I’ll see what I can do after I find what I’m looking for in the archives.”

“You know, Selma, a lot of what we’ve been told at home about how the Pilgrims lived in England, then in Holland and then in New England turns out to be a combination of mythology and self-serving making of legends in our own minds.”

“That’s not surprising, Manny. Most of history falls into that category. It depends on who is writing it and the need for real authentic scholarship.

“What do you mean?

“The search for truth is difficult and academic writing often ends up being the result of trying to combine facts with great story-telling. The body of knowledge is an elusive goal and the road is full of false objectives.”

“ Well, in this little old museum, the Dutch have accumulated and compiled a complex and comprehensive collection of information about the Pilgrims. The museum puts it all together in an interesting and compelling story. The whole thing clearly shows the connection of church history with the Plymouth Colony and the Dutch in New Netherlands and in what we call New England.”

“Do they mention the Scarlet Letter or the burning of witches?”


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