Sunday, August 30, 2015

Plimoth Plantation

I visited the Plimoth Plantations this week and enjoyed the historical site a great deal. It showcased a 17th Century English village and fort and a replica of a Wompanoag homesite. The museum is a living, interactive one in which the actors only speak in the terms and knowledge they have from the 1600s.

The museum is spelled Plimoth, even though the modern-day town is spelled Plymouth because most of the 17th century vocabulary was phonetic. There were multiple spellings and the colonists had not agreed upon standards by that time. They were called Pilgrims because of its religious devotions. These colonists departed from a church in Leiden, Holland to the New World. They referenced Hebrews 11:13-16 to call themselves a people on a spiritual and religious journey.

The First Thanksgiving: Harvest festivals are part of every culture. After a year of sickness and scarcity, a bountiful harvest was celebrated in the fall of 1621. People gave thanks, like in a Eucharist, in the three-day festival that were joined by the Massasoit. In the mid-1800's, commemoration of this feast began and it soon evolved into our Thanksgiving holiday.

I had a few observations about my experience.

The language parents used to answer their children's questions were disturbing. An inquisitive child would be told, "No, that's not the answer. That's silly." And the parents would laugh without offering an informative answer. Or they would be given a generalized non-answer the parent made up. It seems that the greater emphasis for the parents were the entertainment value rather than educational. I remember those days when I looked at my parents and were amazed that they knew everything, but I'm not sure the children of today are getting the same appreciation for knowledge.

It might be much better for other park visitors if children are brought there with school groups, which are more orderly. Teachers enforce civic virtues like forming single-file lines, staying to the right, raising your hand to be called upon, and waiting your turn. It is good for society if we learn to interact in a way in which the smooth functioning of society is advanced. If everyone does what they want on their own terms, then they create a chaotic society devoid of wisdom and orderliness.

Some people have little awareness that they negatively affect the flow of traffic. They stop right in the middle of a pathway and talk on the phone or with a neighbor. It would be far better to move to the side of the path so that others do not have an obstacle course. It is all about awareness and realizing that "I am not the center of everyone's universe."

The attitudes underneath one's interaction with society is the point of today's Sunday scriptures. If one disregards the norms in society, we develop a "me-first" or a "me-only" mentality. Society needs to help others recognize the need for a common good that is balanced with personal freedom and responsibility. It cannot just be about "me" and "my claim that others respect me." It has to be about awareness that I am one small part of society and it is far better to contribute to its smooth operation than to always agitate by demanding respect for "self."

In the Gospel, Jesus says that those things that defile do not come from outside of us, but from within us. It is our attitudes that determine whether we bring forth evil or good.

I can tell many people are hurting and unhappy and are overly occupied with their demands for respect. They will not get it by asserting themselves in  distasteful ways. I think they will get it when they turn charitably towards the other and recognize him or her to be brother or sister, and then have concern for their well-being. We have to teach adults who teach our children about loving ways to construct a better society. In the absence of authority that promotes these laws, we have to model it so others desire it.

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