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cool passage on "forgotten great-grandmothers"


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Initial post: Jan 27, 2008 2:20:54 AM PST
'probabilist says:
Here's a cool passage on "forgotten great-grandmothers", from a new book I came across on Amazon this weekend:

"We carry the past around with us all the time, and not just in our bodies. It lives also in our customs, including the way we speak. The past is a set of invisible lenses we wear constantly, and through these we perceive the world and the world perceives us. We stand always on the shoulders of our ancestors, whether or not we look down to acknowledge them.

"It is disconcerting to realize how few of our ancestors most of us can recognize or even name. You have four great-grandmothers, women sufficiently close to you genetically that you see elements of their faces, and skin, and hair each time you see your reflection. Each had a maiden name she heard spoken thousands of times, and yet you probably cannot recall any one of their maiden names. If we are lucky, we may find their birth names in genealogies or documents, although war, migration, and destroyed records have made that impossible for many Americans. Our four great-grandmothers had full lives, families, and bequeathed to us many of our most personal qualities, but we have lost these ancestors so completely that we cannot even name them. How many of us can imagine being so utterly forgotten just three generations from now
by our own descendents that they remember nothing of us--not even our names?"

source:

David W. Anthony, 'The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World' (Princeton University Press, 2007), pp. 3-4.
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Initial post:  Jan 27, 2008
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