The way I see it history is like a tapestry, and we’re all madly weaving away at our little portion of it, and making some sort of pattern that makes sense sometimes and makes less sense others. Sometimes we start out in wrong directions, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we can fix them and cover it up or make a new pattern, sometimes not. So Hitler is the result of an infinite number of choices that his ancestors made, for centuries and centuries, down to his mother and father. Every single tiny choice they made every day of their lives resulted in Adolph Hitler’s existence, and not one of them could have had any idea how that would turn out. They were weaving a pattern in their portion of the tapestry, and when we look at it from miles above the fabric, and many years on in history, we see the pattern and the tragedy of it, but at the time, even after Hitler’s rise to power and the millions of people that made stupid, scared, even evil choices to follow him or not question him, even after that, they might not have seen the pattern that was forming, so close in it, as they were, so busy making it as time flew by them. And so concerned with the millions of other choices in their day-to-day lives that distracted them from the bigger picture, as we see it so clearly now.
Well, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes to me–this idea of history or fate (depending on which way you look at it) being a sort of tapestry. From the beginning of time people have been weaving their own small portion, aware of people working nearby, but incapable of seeing the larger picture they’re all making together until much later in life. They know from the first that they have a pattern to follow, but there’s no clear plan for it, no diagram, they make it up as they go along, trying one thing or another until it makes sense. They might be following a pattern that their parents taught them, or copying from the people working close by. Various shapes and colors will come into and go out of fashion–some will notice and follow, others will not. My father is a historian, and I once did some work copyediting a textbook he cowrote–an overview of world history. It was remarkable to me the way that these sweeping events would overtake humanity every few hundred years: wars, natural disasters, famine, plagues. These formed huge, horrible changes in the pattern that everybody was weaving, but they couldn’t have known at the time. Most of this was beyond the control of ordinary people, struggling to make their part of the tapestry as beautiful as possible. It made it hard for them to weave, or stopped them weaving at all. Caught up in the struggle of keeping ourself and our family alive, so deeply close to it and inside of it, we’re caught unaware by these waves of change sweeping over the tapestry. And as people make a decision to use a certain color, or continue in a certain direction, they’re thinking what’s best for them at that time, they’re making narrow decisions based on survival and their idea of success. (Hitler is an interesting example of this, I think…the decisions he made might have been considered smart for him at the time, because in terms of his career and his ambition, he might have been considered highly successful, up to a certain point. In the view of people around him…well, I don’t want to go on about Hitler too much. I’m not sure he belongs on a stupid food blog.)
Looking back at my own little piece of the tapestry, it’s funny how it’s worn through in parts, so that I can’t even remember what the pattern was like there, when it was fresh. I just have some memory of the color of my mood at the time. Was I blue? Was I rosy? Was I working in golden thread or gloomy grey? And parts of it are folded up on itself so I see them as clearly as the patches I’m working on now, but it’s never the parts that I’d expect to have nearby. Patches that felt impossibly tangled at the time I worked on them, looked at from here are actually quite pretty. It’s a constant surprise.
Well, dear old extended metaphor, I think I’ve taken you about as far as we could go, in the time I now have.
Here’s Fisher Hendley with Weave Room Blues