Saturday, September 29, 2012


People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

James Baldwin
Hello Val
When I was a senior in high school I went on a field trip to Washington, D.C. Part of the trip was a visit with one of the Supreme Court Justices, Harold Burton. In his office Judge Burton showed us the files of books on his shelf. They were records of all the disputations, opinions and decisions of the Supreme Court dating back to its very first session. There were pieces of paper jutting out of the tops of many of the books and he explained that every time a former case was entered into the proceedings of the Court he would place a marker in that case for reminders.

Consider that man's library, the libraries of the other 8 judges, the libraries of all the various state and municipal courts throughout the country, the records of the US Senate and House of Representatives, state and local governments, and we find a vast and complex history of the legal proceedings of our land.

And the Unites States is just a mere 236 years old. Imagine what exists in other countries with a conscientious legal tradition, Great Britain for example, which could go back for thousands of years. It seems as though world history is written in laws and jurisprudence, and that a judge could not make a righteous decision without consulting the legal minds that went before him all the way back to the beginning, Hammurabi.

The history of the world is not all written in laws of course, but it is one way we can get trapped into derivative thinking. There are also the unwritten laws: custom, tradition, legend, lore. The human race loves its tractions, religious and secular. Some of those traditions come from ancient legends and superstitions, handed down without much question from generation to generation. But many of them still have a powerful influence on our behavior.

Some people are obsessed with keeping records even when there is no need. Some live their lives by the zodiac or other heavenly influences. Some do what their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers did, carrying on a family tradition. Some people carry hereditary beliefs with them and others believe there is a genetic streak in a family line that produces their behavior.

I can see how easy it is to move unnoticeably from the dry, sturdy, dependable world of legal tomes to the colorful, mysterious, uncertain world of superstition, completely passing the world of natural law on both sides.

Oh how easy it is to get trapped ! !

DB _Vagabond Journeys No. 1892
Never give up.


Jon said...

Life offers an endless variation of entanglements and we easily and inevitably get trapped one way or another - - often without even knowing it.
An interesting post!

Ken Riches said...

I loved the Library of Congress in D.C., it was amazing to learn about how they store all the information.