We are surrounded by separations. Our sources are secondary, and I keep hearing silliness like this from students at school:
I know what I’m talking about! My aunt said that somebody on Facebook read…”
– high school student
This about sums it up. I love primary sources and direct experience. History textbooks are usually lame and lifeless with little colored boxes with small selected and redacted paragraphs announcing PRIMARY SOURCE! We are surrounded by second-rate summaries, and watered down versions of everything. Trucks are covered with bumper stickers proclaiming the second half of the Second Amendment, quoting that part exactly, but forgetting the first four words.
This quote from Jon Stewart is one of my favorite things ever expressed about our current world:
The 1990s brought the advent of a dynamic new medium for news, the Internet, a magnificent new technology combining the credibility of anonymous hearsay with the excitement of typing.
– Jon Stewart in America (the Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction
None of this is new. Reading primary sources from hundreds and thousands of years could reveal that… Those are different stories.
I love originals. Insert commentary about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave here if you want. Or, you could make the connection with his discussion of FORMS. The School of Life has a good video about his thoughts on ideal versions, blueprints, and guides. (Find it here.) We don’t need to dip into much philosophy here.
It’s easier to hear about things secondhand. Maybe it’s less intimidating, or convenient. There are probably more people reading books about the Bible than people reading the Bible itself. There are probably more people repeating what somebody said about what somebody said about somebody saying something than those who hear it directly.
Lots can be said here about news, and social media, and the state of public discourse. Argh! Blah. Eh. Stop for a minute and raise a glass to the original not watered down, not passed around and altered like the group bonding game of telephone. Here’s to primary sources. Here’s to the original, unaltered, unfiltered sources.
A later appreciation can focus on honest translators and commentators who help guide and enlighten when the primary source needs interpretation… Here’s to letting the primary sources speak first.
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