Recently, I discovered a slew of historical documentaries on Netflix. History Channel specials on topics ranging from Secret Societies to the life of Abraham Lincoln, from ancient wonders to WWII. For the most part, I am loving this ability to feed my brain - positively necessary, considering that it was beginning to rot away from the sheer number of snow days combined with pregnancy forgetfulness.
However, again and again, I am incensed at the things humanity does to itself, repeatedly, throughout history.
Last night, I watched a special on the ancient city of Alexandria. It was a city entirely dedicated to the pursuit and archival of knowledge. The city's libraries strove to obtain a copy of every written document in existence - a major undertaking in the times of papyrus scrolls. Lecture halls were built to share ancient knowledge, and to discuss revolutionary new ideas. In an open-minded era that is rare throughout history, even women could rise to the elevated status of 'teacher'. Hypatia, for instance, was a great thinker, teacher, and inventor, in a time when Europeans still considered women to be property for trading - little better than animals. As I watched, and learned, of the wonderment of Alexandria, I couldn't help but feel a pull to be a part of that city. A city that all too soon, was sacked and destroyed by 'Christians' who believed knowledge to be of the devil, and women like Hypatia to be witches. The beautiful libraries were plundered, their priceless stores of knowledge burned. Hypatia, a thinker years beyond her time, was viciously murdered in the streets, for the sin of knowing too much.
This isn't an isolated example, either. It has happened repeatedly throughout history. Our most brilliant minds are often persecuted, reviled, and murdered. Many times, as in Alexandria, it is for religious reasons. Every time, however, it is the same. A mob of people who cannot understand rises up against those who would try. Throughout history, the ignorant mistrust the knowledgeable, fearing them only because of their intellect. It's infuriating, especially to one who values information and the pursuit of ideas, as I do.
And I realize the biggest reason I am so angered by it: we have not changed. Even today, there are those who teach us to mistrust science. To marginalize new ideas. For every leap forward, there is a great backlash by the masses, unwilling to believe that this knowledge could benefit all of us. Choosing, instead, to remain in the dark, merely because it is known.
I refuse to remain in the darkness. I will continue to seek the light of understanding. I am no great thinker like Hypatia, but perhaps I can help create a world where she would be safe. A world that accepts genius, that strives to lift up great minds, and to protect them. The solution is in education. In teaching acceptance, tempered with skepticism. And most of all, in considering new ideas, rather than simply dismissing them.