The fascinating and ego-killing existence of human wormholes


I don’t find history boring or irrelevant; I find the way history is presented boring and irrelevant.

The following is boring:

Activists in Lower Canada began to work for reform in a period of economic disfranchisement of the French-speaking majority and working-class English-speaking citizens. The rebellion protested the injustice of colonial governing as such, in which the governor and upper house of the legislature were appointed by the Crown. Many of its leaders and participants were English-speaking citizens of Lower Canada. The French speakers felt that Anglophones were disproportionately represented in the lucrative fields of banking, the timber trade, and transportation industry.

I don’t have a connection to most of that stuff. There’s no narrative, and the language is tedious.

[On the other hand] (

She’s standing in the public square
She listens to them speak
Of the fraudulence and flatulence
They call the Château Clique
How the governor’s asleep,
And all the judges, they grow fat
Of dying crops and cholera,
In mille huit cent trente-quatre.
With eloquence, injustices are attacked by Papineau
Others say, "Melt your spoons to bullets."
Which way shall she go?

Or, for another example, most of what I can tell you about Viking raids, the Byzantine Empire, the An Lushan rebellion, and so forth, I learned from Guy Gavriel Kay’s fictionalized accounts of them (and being inspired to look more deeply into “did that really happen?”), rather than from just reading the Wikipedia articles about the same.

History plainly doesn’t bore me. Its presentation does.


Excellent point, Nimelennar. Happily, there are many serious historians today who can and do produce genuinely well written and interesting, even gripping, books and documentaries. A good part of this can be attributed to the new attitude that a revered figure in history need not be perfect to be admired. EVERYBODY has feet of clay.
Part of the obstacle to history being meaningful in the U.S, is hardly anyone lives in one place for 5 years, let alone 5 generations. And how many buildings or sites in your neighborhood are even older than the 1950’s? Do you know where your great-grandparents are even buried, let alone where they lived?


We should be so lucky.


These things seem remarkable to us, mostly because the modern human attention span has been truncated so badly. If we could give up the blipverts, tweets, smart-phone gazing, fast-food multitasking multi job commuting lifestyle, and instead learn to live again, then the’s kinds of connections would be visible everywhere.

It’s not progress we’d be giving up, it’s the reflexive assumption that newer is automagically better.

The Long Now Foundation is my favorite resource for extending the human attention span farther.into the future at the same time as strething it further back into the past.


My grandfather was born in 1888 (my dad was way older than my mom). I routinely think about what was happening in the human world around that time, how it was not long after the US Civil War, how it was all about horses and wagons, only things that flew were birds (pretty much). And he was in SE Poland. Immigrated to the US in the early 1900s, made and saved money, went back to Poland and lived well. Then the war, which screwed it all up.

One day, I really should write down what I know of my family line. Doing it in the context of human wormholes is an interesting idea.

Nice post, btw, enjoyed it thoroughly.


This all put me in the mind of this:


I’ve seen that a hundred times, and it never gets old. Thanks :slight_smile:

That said, I still prefer the original dust mote in a beam of light version…


I recently was gob-smacked by the headline that President John Tyler’s grandson was still alive! Tyler was born in 1790 and took office in 1841. My mind couldn’t comprehend how a grandchild of his was alive today. The link is to an article on “Mental Floss” and makes fascinating reading in a similar manner.

a confirmation is available on Snopes:


One of the books I recently inherited is one of those wonderful little squat, brown-leather-bound pocket books from 1752, Le Rabelais Moderne les Oeuvres de Maitre Francois, Tome Cinquieme, Seconde Partie, A Amsterdam chez Jean Frederic Bernard, dated M. DCC.LII. The American Revolution was a quarter century away from this book traveling in a frock coat pocket, read by meager candlelight.


Well, yeah. You can’t share the secret Illuminati handshake with just anyone.


Things like this are exactly why I grind my teeth when people use “modernity” as a justification in an argument.

IIRC of the famous Greek or Roman philosophers said pretty much the same thing.


My Father was born in 1906 and died in 1996. He went from no electricity in his home to the era of a home computer. His own Father, my Grandfather was born in 1868 just after my Great Grandfather came back from the Civil War.From where I stand, born in the 1960’s, we really are just a handshake away from remarkable history.


Shake hands in the other direction, it’s even more remarkable.


Early color photography does it for me.

Paris, 1914

Russian Empire, 1909


I wish this wasn’t called ego-killing perhaps instead we mean it is ego(tism)-killing. It is true that the time I have is infinitesimal (actually smaller than that) compared to all of humanities time which is an infinitesimal part of the universes and all of the “time” in all of those. I can take that and be humbled to non-existence or I can stand in wonderment and appreciate that this is the time where and when I am and make the most of it.

Unless the parallel universes theories are real (and visitable) a la “All the Myriad Way” by Larry Niven and I am not special then who cares.

Be careful what philosophy you espouse it might be dangerous and contagious.


I’m an existentialist, not a nihilist. I believe it’s up to us to create meaning in life if we wish it to have any. Some find that frightening. I personally find is empowering. Better to take up agency in light of that reality than pretend we’re the center of the universe and give up agency to others who claim to know what the universe wants.


I liked it and I like it. I totally agree and will continue to remind myself to stand in wonderment and appreciation.


My grandparents were all born in the 1890s, three of them on farms. My father’s family spent most of his early years farming, with his father also doing accounting and his mother teaching; sometimes they had indoor plumbing and sometimes they didn’t. My mom’s mother (the city girl) went to high school with Hemingway (and didn’t like him :- ); she and Grandpa also lived in Paris while he was there in the 20s, but apparently were always in different cafes. One of my ancestors from the 1600s lived to be 100, and a lot of them lived into their 90s or at least 80s. (On the other hand, the graveyard where my father’s buried not only has old people in it, it also has way too many infants.)

But the US East Coast has a lot of older history than here out west. The Quaker meeting I went to in New Jersey was founded in 1636. It wasn’t in the original building, because of fires, but the hiding place under the stairs was from the Underground Railroad.


I wonder how many generations that is if you go along the maternal line back to that time?in some cultures I’m sure it’s pretty common for the man to be twice as old as the woman at the time of her first child’s birth, and for the maternal line to have twice as many generations as the paternal line. This woman saw her great-great-great-great grandson (all female until that point) when she was 109, and probably saw quite a few generations the other way too.


My great-grandfather was born on a farm in Manhattan.