I think I am officially the king of recycling. Not necessarily recycling in the cans-and-bottles kind of way. But the past few days, I have suddenly revived my addiction to Age of Empires II, a video game I got when I was a kid. Seriously, this thing was released in 1999 – that would make me about 11 when I got it. Man, was Y2K really that long ago? Wow.
Anyways, this isn’t the first time that this has happened. I’ve downloaded many of the old DOS games I used to play, like Commander Keen, Crystal Caves, Jill of the Jungle, and several others. And those go even further back. I have fond memories of playing those games, and watching my dad and sister play them as well. Yes, apparently we have a nerdy family. But at any rate, Age of Empires I think holds the record for me for the longest-running on-and-off addiction. That’s kind of a contradiction, I know, but basically I play it intensely for a few weeks to a month, and then I lose interest in it for a while, it sits on my shelf and gathers dust, and then years later I pick it up again and get totally immersed in it all over again. This is about the third or fourth time that’s happened over the years. There are plenty of newer, better games out there now. But none of them are quite the same. And I happen to like Age of Empires!
This time, the story is a little more interesting, however. Despite the not-so-spectacular graphics (from today’s perspective), the game is remarkably historical. I mean, they’ve certainly taken some creative license, but they have several campaigns that centre around historical characters and civilizations. I’ve been working my way through the storyline for Joan of Arc, and before that I was doing the Barbarossa campaign. And that’s odd, because it’s what I’ve been learning about in my Studies in the Humanities course. In this class, we’ve been taking a whirlwind tour through history, focusing mainly on the art and literature of different time periods, but talking a lot about the general history as well. It’s been interesting, and I’ve definitely learned a lot more than I ever learned in my course on World History in high school. I’m not sure whether that was because it wasn’t covered or because I wasn’t listening, but either way, I’ve been really enjoying this class. And, well, one of the people we talked about was Frederick Barbarossa – one of the guys who tried to unite the Germanic tribes and revive the Holy Roman Empire. And in the Age of Empires campaign, what are you trying to do? Unite the Germanic tribes and revive the Holy Roman Empire. Fantastic, isn’t it?
Alright, so perhaps this blog entry classifies me as a nerd. I won’t deny it. But I just found it interesting that my class has sparked interest in a 10-year-old game (which is ancient in gaming standards), and then that 10-year-old game has sparked my interest in history. It’s a cycle of ascending learning! Oh no! I’m going to get too smart!
Seriously, though, the class is very interesting. We just learned about medieval education and the rise of the university tonight. I didn’t know that the universities at Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris were actually founded in the Middle Ages. I also didn’t know that the system of degrees, like Bachelors and Masters and Doctorates, also goes back to that time. How cool is that?! I feel such a part of history now. Sitting in a university classroom learning about the founding of the very system you’re in seems like such a connecting moment.
That’s the thing I like about history. I was never a fan of history in elementary and high school. Perhaps it was the teachers, or perhaps it’s just that my views have changed. But to me now, history seems like such an amazing way to connect yourself to the continuity of humanity. By reading about times gone by, it’s like you’re standing on a hill, with the vast timeline stretched out before you. You’re looking back through time, but all the while you’re seeing the thin line that has stretched throughout the whole, connecting each piece to every other one. Every action, every step forward and backward that our ancestors have taken, has led us to this point that we are in now. Without the Internet, we wouldn’t have blogs. Without computers, we wouldn’t have the Internet. Without calculators, we wouldn’t have computers. Without a system of mathematical notation, we wouldn’t have calculators. Without the advances in mathematics by the Arabs, we wouldn’t have mathematical notation (at least not in its present form). And so it goes, backwards through time. Invention after invention, discovery after discovery, advance after advance all have built upon each other to keep as at the top of the tower where we are today. And our addition to the structure will propel the future generations further forward.
We are but one domino in the line of falling dominoes. We are but one link in the chain, firmly secured to the links behind us and the links before us. And though sometimes it’s so hard to even imagine what life would have been like without cars, radios, and even the wheel, the glimpses we have to the past, through historical inquiry, give us the insight we need to be a strong link in that chain for the ones who are to come. Archaeologists say that one of the first inventions that humans created were stone tools. Think about it. They took a rock, banged it against another rock until one was sharper, and then took home a Nobel prize for it – well, they would have if Alfred Nobel had lived back then, I guess. Did they know that their new tools would spawn a race of people that would cover the entire globe, 6.6 billion strong and growing? Not likely. They probably didn’t even know the earth was a globe. They just saw what needed to be made, made it, and then unknowingly became a link in the chain. And we have them – and all our other predecessors – to thank for it. Things would look a lot different without them.
Anyway, there’s my mind-blowing thought for the day. Hope it was as thought-expanding and brain-shattering for you as it was for me. So go out and make something new today. Improve the future. Be a link in the chain – but be a good one.