Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road... and I'll be in Scotland afore ye...

Today I breathed a sigh of relief.

Because we have been out of town all week, I had to take the final exam for both of my classes this morning... suffice it to say that last night wasn't happy. But, I think I did pretty well. I am quite confident, actually. I finished the first in 25 minutes and the second in an hour and 15. Could I have done better? Of course. Do I really care? Not really.

One of the essay questions I had to answer is why knowing a nation's history is important to its citizens. I am absolutely fascinated with this subject. My brother posed the same question to me earlier this week in another context. Why should we be proud of our Scotch-Irish heritage? he asked.

I am very proud to be Scotch-Irish- and I intend to find out more about them... just think- it may have been my ancestors that were monks who preserved the written word during the Dark Ages! It may have been them who sat under St. Patrick (my mom's maiden name is actually McCool) and spread Christianity on the island. The Lennoxes (Jon's mom's maiden name) were descendants of the Stuart Kings- the castle they owned (this picture was taken by Jon's brother Ben) is still there today- near Loch Lomond in Scotland. I find this fascinating!

I read a book last year called The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How eating together makes us stronger, smarter, healthier, and happier. In it, the author related a conversation she had had with a colleague who was a college professor. He had done a study on his students and found that those who knew thier family's heritage- recent and ancient- seemed to have more success in school and beyond.

The book asserted, and I agree, that knowing what "your people" have been through- whether it is the trials of the ancient celts, the journey from the isles to America, or the stories of my grandparents in the Great Depression, this connection to the past empowers people to have the strength to succeed.

Keep in mind this is not always a cognitive decision. When faced with a hard time, I don't think, "Wait a minute! I have ancestors who survived the Potato Famine- I can get through this!" No. I don't.

I do think, though, that the subconscious knowledge of what your family- or nation- has been through can positively affect an individual.

Jon and I have begun compiling information we know so that, someday, we can pass it on to our kids- the book suggests that the dinner table is a great means for that.

What do you think? Do you feel a connection to your past? Is passing family history on to your children important to you?

And an even more pressing question: Do you want to buy a used Western Civilization book?


Anonymous said...

Remember those great meal time conversations about politics Matt and I used to have? Make sure you reference THEM for posterity, too!!


His Servant said...

Knowing your family tree may be fascinating, but I don't think it changes who we are. Far too many of us don't take the time to learn about ourselves without our past. My family history will not change my future. I am who I am today and can only change who I am tomorrow. Too many people go through life searching for things which give them significance in this world.
I don't think finding family history is a bad thing; I just place it low on my totem pole.

I hope you did great on your exams.

Anonymous said...

Without dredging up the context of my comment, I think I need to distinguish between "interest" and "pride." I'm interested in my past, and learning about my ancestors. But I still have to ask why I should take "pride" in being Scotch-Irish? Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I see a difference. -MDN

Sara said...

I see your point, but I maintain that we should be proud. If you don't want to be, then you have that perogative- but I am. Sure, they weren't perfect. But I am proud that I came from a people that has been through so much. When you learn about them because you are interested, doesn't that make you proud to be their descendants?

Anonymous said...

Who, exactly, are our ancestors in whose accomplishments I should take pride?

Amy said...

Hey, Sara! Maybe you should send the last poster your Western Civ book so they can find out who their ancestors are! LOL!!

I think knowing your family and ancestors gives you a sense of belonging and yes, pride in your heritage. I hope that both of my children are proud of their unique heritages--one Chinese and the other Scotch/Irish/and other mixtures. I find it fascinating when I hear the stories of how my grandfather at age 11 and his siblings jumped on a train and traveled across the country to work during the Depression. It amazes me that my great grandmother was full blooded Blackfoot Indian. There is so much history to learn from. Just the fact that history repeats itself, should be enough to want to learn from it. It does affect our future. What we do today affects the future of our children and grandchildren and generations to come. If nothing else, it gives me strength to continue on in hard times, knowing how good we have it today compared to what our ancestors have endured. I hope that I can leave a legacy that my descendants will take pride in and want to follow as well.

Amy said...

One more thing. . . :-)

You should check out the website/blog:

It really gives you lots of food for thought. I think you would like it..

love ya!

Anonymous said...

The pupose of my question was to highlight the fact that Sara and I decend from no certain "people group."

I would also distinguish the difference between pride in your identifiable recent & direct ancestors, and those of some distant nation-group. -MDN

Sara said...

I see your point about the difference between indentifiable ancestory and a broad nation/ people group. Unfortunately, we don't have records that far back! We could have relatives from ANYWHERE- someone that in some random course through life met someone from Ireland... who knows... and I would agree that even Scotland and Ireland are two very different nations with very different histories...

However, going on what I KNOW to be true- that I am of Scotch-Irish lineage- I feel a connection to that heritage. I don't know who my direct anscestors were who were alive in 300, but I can look at the people living then and wonder...

You know, in writing this I feel that this openness (not knowing who they were) could be a positive thing. In my wondering, I can appreciate what different cultures (may) have contributed to who I am now.

And who knows- maybe my relatives were drunkards, murderers, thieves, evildoers. In that case, I can be grateful for where I am now.

At the same time, I am thankful for the contribution each individual and society made in shaping the world, my family, and in turn, me.

Steve, in response to your statement, I agree to an extent. Knowing my family history doesn't necessarily change me. I do think, though, that it leads to a heightened awareness of values and lessons that could make you think even more about who you are- and in doing, influence the future (as Amy pointed out).

I appreciate all your comments and participation in this discussion!

Anonymous said...

Are you also proud of your "hillbilly" anscestors? Because, in reality, that shaped our upbringing much more than any Scotish-Irish connection. aj

Sara said...

Sure I am- those are the more "recent ancestors" in this conversation!

One of my favorite stories is when Grandad's uncle got word the cops were coming after him for moonshining, took out the back door (in Tennessee) and kept running until he got to Oregon!

Anonymous said...

Really, the lifestyle, ethics, beliefs, etc. that we got from our hillbilly relatives is closer to the actual Scotch-Irish heritage than is the kilts and bagpipes Scotish tradition. -MDN

Sara said...

Why does it have to be either/or? I am proud of both my ancient Scotch/Irish roots AND my more recent ancestory of the mountains of Tennessee.

You're right- our great-great-grandparents affected more directly who we are today than the ancients- but who affected them? Their great-great-grandparents? And who them?

My point is that a person's history is not a specific time or place- my history is everyone who has EVER been in my family line. Obviously I'm more impacted by the decisions of those in the past century, just as my decisions will impact MY great-great-grandchildren- but that doesn't mean that everyone else should be forgotten.

I hope that my great-great-grandchildren our proud of their Scotch-Irish roots just as much as they are by the fact that their great-great-grandmother left everything she knew to move across the country when their great-great-grandfather was in the United States Army.

Sara said...

I just looked back up and realized I misread your comment, MDN-

I would agree that the beliefs and ethics are what has influenced our upbringing. I think that's why the music of Appalachia is so similar to Celtic- both groups lived a tragic and difficult life- their lyrics reflect that, however, most tunes sound happy to the ears- at least what I have heard.

So again, although the hillbilliness more directly impacted us, I don't think that means we shouldn't celebrate (in a passive sense) the traditions of kilts and pipes- why not both?

Anonymous said...

What I was saying is that the hillbilly heritage IS the Scotch-Irish heritage. The Scotch-Irish that came to the US moved to Appalachia, and preserved their traditions there. That tradition is much closer to the real Scotch-Irish heritage than is the bagpipes, kilts, etc. that we generally think of.

His Servant said...

I am confused. The only thing I find from my past, that can change my future, is possibly reputations which influence the perception of people around me. This however can even be overcome by consistency.

I know I must seem to come across as negative, but I really am confused on the benefits of this. Please help me better understand by explaining the benefit I will receive in knowing my heritage. (Sincerely)

Amy said...

Well, since I am really a hillbilly from Kentucky, it must explain why I love both the Celtic (bagpipes, etc) AND the Appalachian music!! :-) Thank goodness for Allison Krauss and bluegrass music as well!!

Here is a question for you all: Why did God give us stories of people in the Bible if we are not to learn from them and know the history of that time? I know I am taking a little bit away from the direct descendants taking pride in their heritage discussion. I just feel that if the lives of those in Bible times are ones we should learn from and study, then why not the people who lived many centuries after the Bible was written that could possibly be our ancestors? The Bible could not contain all the stories that should have been written, so is it our responsiblity to search out our history as best we can? It is unfortunate that the records only go so far back in time. I don't look at it as searching for significance in life, I look at it as a learning experience that affects how I live and respond in my present day life. That in turn affects my future. I can learn from someone who lived thousands of years ago as well as someone who lives in my present day. I can see someone else succeed or fail today and I can learn from that. I can also see the same of someone who lived thousands of years ago. If our lives were only what we do in the present and onward, then why bother teaching history at all in schools or churches? When we look at the fact that people (possibly our own ancestors) died (martyrs, wars, famines, etc.) in order that we may live the life we have today, that makes me a little bit thankful and humbled and proud. Yeah, and my great-great grandfather may have been a murderer and robber or moonshiner too. I guess I could just try to learn from that one! LOL!

By the way, Sara, I need to hear more about your GrandDad's uncle and the moonshining! That is some good junk rite thare!

Anonymous said...

His Servant- I think you and I agree on the larger issue that was the origin of my comment to Sara. (correct me if I'm wrong.) I don't see a reason to take pride in heritage. But I also think knowing about my heritage helps explain why I, as an individual today, have certain beliefs. Individuals are the product of their culture. And since I live in a culture that was shaped by a Western-European heritage, then studying that heritage is important. Not to the exclusion of others, of course. But I certainly emphacize it.

This is also true for members of our culture who don't have a personal ancestory to a W-E heritage. Their beliefs are most likely shaped more by a W-E value system than whatever their indidual heritage happens to be. So to that extent, then I suppose knowing that individual heritage, and how it fits into American culture, would be beneficial. But I still maintain that it's nothing to take pride in. It's just instructional.


His Servant said...

MDN - I agree - "I don't see a reason to take pride in heritage."

However, this doesn't mean I don't understand why people do it.

Sara said...

His Servant- I have been thinking all day about a response to your questions: What does taking pride in my heritage look like?

I have decided to create a separate post quoting the book I mentioned. It is from this book that I originally got this whole idea, and I think it would be best to let it explain itself. (as a note, I think you especially would find this book absolutely fascinating- it is all about people, groups, individuals, analyzing family dynamics, etc- it seems to be right up your alley.)

On a personal level, though, is where I'm struggling coming up with words. As I told Jon, I best describe it as "a really cool feeling"... but, come on. I am the last person in the world who would think that is a valid arguement. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it is based on feeling. The feeling that I am connected to something bigger than me, a tapestry that has been woven throughout time and is continuing to be so.

What does this pride look like? Well, pride is a feeling. I don't know what practical outworking it has in my life. To be honest, I have only begun to scratch the surface of realizing my personal history. I will say that this knowledge invokes in me an inner strength (I know it sounds cheesy, but that's truly how I would describe it). I read stories about men going off to war, and I realize how much better I have it than did the military wives of old (this is piggybacking on Amy's idea). So my husband is going to Mississippi for a couple months... but I can talk to him every day. Even in Iraq I could do that. Those women endured countless hardships... I feel that, in some small way, I am carrying on that same tradition.

I don't know if that answered your question. I am on a journey to find the answer myself.

His Servant said...

Sarah - If what you feel is pride. How can we have pride in who others were and or what they may have done?

If it isn't pride, what is it?