The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
A somber interpretation of this quote comes naturally.
- The foul stain on America from slavery persists.
- A mysterious burden is passed down from each generation to the next (as in a post on Na trioblóidí that I found to be simultaneously intriguing, funny, and disturbing).
- Original Sin.
And so on.
Like many classics, the Faulkner quote can be reinterpreted later, w/o superceding the original intent. As a quick example of such reinterpretation, consider JS Bach’s Two-Part Invention #11. It is very quick indeed (about a minute long) and was originally written for solo harpsichord. Click here to hear it arranged for banjo and marimba, on one track from a Grammy-winning CD, where banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and friends reinterpret 19 short classical pieces. We will return to music shortly.
The story of my upbeat reinterpretation starts a few years ago. Tired of having the air in my kitchen be warmer and wetter than elsewhere in the house, I bought a window fan: 2 small quiet fans in 1 housing, meant to be squeezed between sash and sill for blowing air in or out of a window. I mounted the fan in a doorless doorway, so as to blow air from the dining room into the kitchen. It does help. A tall person would need to stoop when passing thru; I do not.
To mount the fan, I drilled holes in the fan housing and drove screws thru the housing into wooden supports (cut from scrap lumber) that I attached to the upper corners of the doorway. I chuckled at the thought that relating horizontal and vertical lengths (along the doorway) to diagonal lengths (of cut lumber) was yet another small consulting gig for Pythagoras.
Hmmm. I did not think of Pythagoras as an ancient dead Greek. I thought of him as an eminent older colleague (long since retired) who is doing quite well for his age and still has consulting gigs. The past is not past.
Will our civilization endure until I am as old as Pythagoras is now? (Not w/o some major course corrections.) Suppose it does. I doubt that I will have many more consulting gigs. But Pythagoras will. Bach’s music will still be cherished and reinterpreted, along with that of other great composers, from Hildegard to Hovhaness and beyond. Sometimes it is good that the past is not past.
Ad honorem: Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179
Mystic visions or
migraine headaches? Whatever.
Her music lives on!