The History of Europe

Today I purchased a children’s book (in Bulgarian) about European history. It looks to be an excellent book. It is hard cover, has fully colored pages, and contains a history that begins with the development of plant and animal life due to climate and continental formation stretching all the way forward to current EU issues. All of this was sold to me by my favorite bookstore employee, who speaks perfect English, for a mere 12 leva. It was quite a deal.

Surprisingly, more important than the actual purchase or the awkward cultural exchanges surrounding the experience is the new found motivation behind the book. I woke up this morning, boarded the marshrutka towards Plovdiv, and was struck with the realization that I know nothing about history or politics. This was not a new realization. What was new was the accompanying desire to actually learn do something about it.

For the first time in my life I am finally admitting to the importance of history and politics. For quite some time I have conducted a silent, one-woman protest against history, specifically the historical identity. I denied that the actions of our ancestors created and controlled us. I claimed that what each of us are feeling as individuals in the moment creates us. In protest I refused to study anything to do with politics or history. I floated through the world with a selective blindness, bumping into current beings and refusing to reach around to tug at the tethers of their existence. In my blindness I was able to claim them as free.

I am not going to say that I was wrong about that. I still truly believe that a person can exist in the moment, separate from their history. However, after two years of being thrust into a slightly more diplomatic environment my understanding has changed a bit and broadened a bit. I now realize that many people are connected to and influenced by their past, and my personal choice to avoid that constant grooming of culture does not supersede the reality that others choose to create. My petulant desire for how I think the world should be does not change how it is- which is highly influenced by the politics and culture that I have boycotted. It it time to take a new tactic. Hence the history book.

Do you laugh that it is a children’s book? I do. But that is honestly where I am at the moment. I am at the beginning.

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