Human Wave

Past Reflects Future

I always feel a little hesitant to offer any analysis of current events. For one thing, it seems that these days, everything is political, will I, nil I. For another, it’s outside my realm. I am not that erudite and intellectual as to think that my observations are weighty and worthy of proclaiming. Besides which, I despise politics. 

However, in my pleasure reading, I found myself somewhat shocked to look at the page and see the present reflected back at me. I’ve always known Agatha Christie was a brilliant writer, and that a good part of what we perceive as brilliance in crafting fiction is really shrewd observation of human nature. The peculiar thing is, humans are humans and have always been. What she foresaw in the creeping shadows of the Cold War drawing across Europe bears striking resemblance to what goes on now, still the same players on the board. They Came to Baghdad was written in 1951. While the plot is a rather silly romantic comedy of a mystery – and that’s delightful, by the way, I really do recommend it – somewhere in there, most unexpectedly during the romping adventure, Dame Christie pulls back the curtain and in the dark glass I think you’ll see what I see. I found myself recoiling a little from the idea, but it’s… well. I don’t do conspiracy theories. This is not a conspiracy theory. Conspiracies don’t go ’round announcing themselves on the evening news. 

Human nature. Then, and now. They want to make the human race better, and they don’t care how many they have to kill to achieve their ends. By any means. 

I am never without hope. I am always confident in the triumph of human nature. Plans go awry. People muck up the gears, through quiet things, and loud. Humans are endlessly resilient. This past shows me the future, and the past shows me hope. Always. The little pottery bowls of the story, the small artifacts of life… they endure. We’ve come to an era where freedom has been tasted and some don’t understand it, but many yearn towards it. Towards having a future, and not one ruled over by our betters. Better?! No! There is no utopia. There is only this flawed race of people. Humans. Take us as we are, or not at all. 

How many attempts at finding utopia have there been? I can think of a dozen or more… the Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution to the shores of America. The Shakers in their celibate and shrinking enclave. Many, many who dreamed of creating the perfect communal society, and those failed in starvation, penury, and squalor. Still, humans seem driven to try again and again, failing in their reach for some kind of perfection that eludes every attempt. Perhaps because they reckoned without the imperfection that lies within every human. Perhaps in their own arrogance that their way was the right way, regardless of their own imperfections they overlooked. 

True freedom does not lie in reforming the human race. Finding the ways to exploit the human nature to quarrel… those are easy, sadly, and we fall for it over and over, when we should be trying to at least understand and determine how to work with one another. If we are tribal – and all humans are – do not forget that when the tribes were not warring, they were trading. We need one another. The first step to reconcile? Stop thinking of yourself as better than your enemy. You are he, and he is you. We are all human. 

“Surely those were the things that mattered—the little everyday things, the family to be cooked for, the four walls that enclosed the home, the one or two cherished possessions. All the thousands of ordinary people on the earth, minding their own business, and tilling the earth, and making pots and bringing up families and laughing and crying, and getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. They were the people who mattered, not these Angels with wicked faces who wanted to make a new world and who didn’t care whom they hurt to do it.

— They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie

3 thoughts on “Past Reflects Future

  1. So very astute, and true, humility is a ridiculed notion these days, but far more profitable than pride.

  2. Agatha Christie also wrote something called The Big Four along these lines and the story about Hilary Craven. Beyond that I think about Uncle Andrew and Queen Jadis. “Mine is a high and lonely destiny.” Uh, No.

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