I’m “reading” Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem—actually listening to the audiobook version from the Los Angeles Public Library. It’s a lot easier to get other things done this way, though it is sometimes necessary to scroll back when my attention wavers. With these big, sprawling histories, it’s easy to lose track of who the author is talking about.
Previously, I had checked out Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918, but I didn’t finish reading it in the allotted 21 days and I couldn’t renew it because, apparently, it’s in high demand. When you want to renew a copy of an e-book or audiobook that other people are waiting for, you must return in and the library will remove availability to the book files. Then if you want to check it out again, you must put it on hold and go to the back of the line.
That’s how my unfinished “reading” of The Romanovs turned into my present “reading.”
And I said all that to point out something about these histories and about histories in general: I am grateful to God for being born at the time and in the place that I was.
From what I can tell about most of human history, sudden death, wasting disease, torture, dismemberment, and enslavement have been right around the corner for everyone: kings, priests, pashas, sheiks, emperors, scribes, nobles, serfs, slaves, and warriors. Up until very, very recently, all man- and womankind have had sudden destruction haunting them from infancy and if they made it out of infancy, the lifespan was usually no longer than 50 years. And let’s not even discuss the bathing and toilet accommodations!
And if you were a woman or a child, your body did not belong to you. Period.
Really, I am so tired of the whining that goes on about life in America. It isn’t perfect; no existence anywhere has been since Adam and Eve so severely miscalculated. As a matter of fact, life has been nasty, brutish, and—following the Great Flood—short. And poopy.
Now, too much time is spent coveting your neighbor’s private space to eat, sleep, copulate, and clean himself instead of appreciating your own private but smaller space to eat, sleep, copulate, and clean yourself.
That’s what I’m getting from Montefiore’s work—a sense of how good we all have it. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.
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