Friday, September 27, 2013

Distortions of Historical Perspective

The All-Seeing Eye
While I agree that the warped timeline we see in the narrative simulates something of God's perspective (as we've discussed), I also wonder if it's really that different than Mormon and Moroni's editorial choices? Not only is the chronology of the narrative non-linear, it's loaded with editorial interjections written from their own time period. The same can be said of passages in the Bible as well - when we are first introduced to Judas Iscariot, he is identified as him "who betrayed [Jesus]."

This is why we say "hindsight's 20/20," right? It's a commonly held belief that we can discern the full import or the true nature of a word, act, character, event, circumstance, etc. when we know what will become of it; when we have the cumulative knowledge of a historian.

There is some truth to this, but the historian (including lay historians like ourselves) is always in danger of conflating who a person became with who he was, of creating a caricature wrapped around the most prominent moment, achievement, or failure of his life...

EagleBones summons The Dude
For example: eight years ago, EagleBones Falconhawk, a member of The Aquabats, gave me the shirt of his back. We were co-workers at a scrapbooking warehouse. It was a brown shirt with “IronHeart” silkscreened on the front in a home-brewed, vintage heavy metal script. IronHeart was a cover band he played in years earlier. I asked if he had a shirt just like it that I could buy from him. He said, “you know what—here.” He had two shirts on that day, but it was still a generous act befitting someone on his way to Claremont Graduate University's School of Religion.

I had long been a fan of The Aquabats. Roughly six years earlier, I saw the band play at a dumpy little venue near Dallas. At most shows, crowd-surfers are pulled down into a gated buffer zone at the front of the stage by a bunch of fat, sweaty guys in yellow security shirts. But this venue had no security at all, which meant crowd-surfers—myself included—often landed on stage at the bands feet only to return to the crowd as stage divers. Someone up front thought it would be funny to start tearing off the shoes of those who landed on stage before they leapt back onto the crowd. Within moments I had lost both shoes and one knee-high tube sock. I dove back onto a sea of hands after them both, but to no avail.

The Accountant
When I next landed onstage, I found both shoes had been tossed ashore. I scrambled toward them on my hands and knees, but found myself immobilized before I could reach them. The MC Bat Commander had made an ass of me; he rode me sidesaddle as he sang another bar or two, gave my behind a couple good slaps, and dismounted. I figured that gave me right to join the act, so I jumped to my feet, tore off my shirt, raised indignant fists skyward, bared my teeth with a growl, and showed the crowd that every inch of my 120 pound frame was ready to rumble. But I was no match for the Bat Commander. While I was still busy impersonating Hulk Hogan, he kicked me square in the pants and sent me back onto the crowd. And then I was bit by a 6'4" accountant.

His name was Dustinn Michael Jackson. Yes, that’s Dustinn with a double “N,” and no, his parents weren’t unusually fond of the King of Pop. He has a sweet wife and two kids and a resume featuring experience at American Express, American Airlines and IBM. I didn't see him when he bit me at that concert, but if I had, I might not have entirely recognized him at the time. He was a teenaged beanpole with a pair of black-rimmed, second-hand glasses and a snarled heap of curly black hair; the tallest tuba player in his high school marching band, and the bass player in the garage band I joined when I first moved to Texas. He listened to death metal on Saturday night for a good laugh, and combed his black hair down (mostly) every Sunday for church. 

It wasn't until our ride home when we were swapping stories that I found out he had bit me. In fact, he had no idea it was me that he bit. He said being the tallest in a crowd means getting thumped in the head by crowd surfers. He had grown tired of ducking and started biting. True story.

Christian Jacobs
Of course, this all happened before EagleBones Falconhawk joined The Aquabats. When he gave me the shirt of his back, he was still just Ian Fowles. 

Also, I won't go into the details, but some time between getting bit by Dustinn and receiving a shirt from Ian, I gave Christian Jacobs, co-creator of the internationally acclaimed Nick Jr. show Yo Gabba Gabba!, a purple-nurple. No, I didn't do it because Christian created the show. In fact, he hadn't even shot the Yo Gabba Gabba! pilot yet. I did it because Christian Jacobs is MC Bat Commander's mild-mannered alter-ego; vengeance compelled me.

Anyway, the point is, people are, do, and become complex things for complex reasons. I thought it was interesting and effective that Milton chose to use false gods for his various devils. It gave those characters more depth and expanded the implications we could draw from their speeches, but it also reminded me of a habit in history and personal reflection that might actually distort our vision.

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