The more things change, et cetera…

As an integral part of my studies on Ancient History, as well as reading modern scholars and recent discoveries, I’ve also been reading ancient texts: documents written by the people living in that time. Some are intended as histories, some are letters, some are other types of documents. But what continues to strike me is  how so many of the texts deal with matters we still discuss and debate today, and how many comments are still relevant!

For your amusement, here are a couple of the more obvious examples:

Pliny the Younger, writing in around 100 CE (Common Era, also referred to as AD), excused his long and in-depth letter to a friend by adding, ‘Besides, hasn’t the time come to give up the commonplace “How are you? I hope you are well”?’ 

I don’t know about you, but that is how I learnt to write letters, almost 2000 years later!

Tacitus, also writing around 100 CE, wrote, ‘In the good old days, every man’s son, born in wedlock, was brought up not in the chamber of some hireling nurse, but in his mother’s lap, and at her knee.’ Tacitus went on to describe what he considered good parenting: a mother’s focus on her child, a mother’s presence and influence, not hiring staff to care for the child instead.

We still have these debates: Stay-at-home-mum versus working mum. The pros and cons of childcare. (If you’re not a parent, you might not have noticed these. But they are ongoing in the online mothering community, and occasionally in the news media!)

My last example is a little bit more complex: not a quote, but a scenario. A Roman tribune named Tiberius Gracchus, in 136 BCE, proposed a law intended to ensure fairer usage of public lands, a reduction in the number of slaves used to farm said land, and an increase in farming citizens – the pool from which soldiers could be drawn. In short, in Roman terms, it was a law intended for the benefit of the state, the greater good. But the law was strongly opposed by rich land-holders: the men who had been exploiting those very same public lands for their own gain, and who had used many slaves to do so. There was such debate and furore over this agrarian law that those rich, greedy men ended up killing Tiberius, or directly causing his brutal murder.

Short of the actual murder, it seems our way of doing politics and business is much the same. Unelected people still have power and influence via money, and sometimes brute force.

The more things change, the more they stay the same! My mother notes it for her lifetime; I am learning to note it for all of recorded history.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! (Turn and face the strain…)

Life is a series of changes, nothing ever remains the same for long – just look at Facebook. But some periods seem more turbulent than others, some times present more choices and options, decisions to make, changes to catalyse yourself. For me, this is such a time.

I have finally taken steps towards learning to drive properly. Over the years I have held various learner permits, and driven various vehicles, but I was more proficient on my scooter than anything else. However a scooter is obviously impractical now that I have children, and it is past time I figured out this car-driving thing. I haven’t driven a car in many years, and my permit has long-since expired, so on Thursday I will be re-sitting the test to get a new permit. The following week I will hopefully be having several professional lessons and getting some practice in with my parents. It won’t be too long, I hope, before I get my P plates and can drive alone!

The other big change possibly looming is a renewal of my interest in archaeology. It is a field I have often thought of briefly, but never saw as a viable study/career option – mostly because it seems so pretentious, so ridiculous, to say out loud: “I want to be an archaeologist!” However now I think, “Why the heck not?” I can at least give it a shot, right?

So I’ve enrolled with Open University Australia again to do a single unit on the subject, specifically focussed on Israel – because that is what they’ve got available, that is not a specific interest of my own. That starts at the end of this month. I suppose after I finish the unit, I will re-evaluate my interests and capabilities, and that will be the basis of a later decision on whether to pursue archaeology as a degree and career.

La Trobe University offer a Bachelor of Archaeology, and also offer “short courses” (single units) from the bachelor. The only issue I see with that is the need for childcare; both the bachelor and the short courses require attendance on campus and can’t be done online. Evelyn is only seven weeks old now; even if I enrolled in the bachelor from semester two next year she would still be less than a year old. It’s a little sooner than I had wanted to put her into full-time childcare; I’d hoped to be home with my kids for as long as possible. On the other hand, if I waited an extra year, would my enthusiasm have waned during the down-time? It’s something to think about. Perhaps a couple of short courses or online units will keep my interest up and give me the chance of RPL (recognition of prior learning) later on, whilst also allowing me to stay home with the kids just a little bit longer.

My usual advice to friends pondering whether or not to do something is simple: Do it! The reason behind this is, you usually risk little or nothing by trying something. But if you never even try, you’ll never know what might have happened. The only hard part is taking my own advice!