Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reading: Wars, Disease, Race & Religion

Several books I read in the past months covered the study of some disease - or - the sickness that humans bring with the ravages of war, or both.  

I was intrigued by the study of disease - the spread of it and misguided attempts to understand it.  It was also intriguing to discern the ways in which war, religion, incarceration and “travel” (usually for war/trade) contributed to the spread of disease.  Yet more intriguing within these issues were the first attempts to discern the spread and science of disease, how people failed to do careful study and pay attention to developing “theories” - and how many theories of disease were wrong and yet persisted in spite of evidence.  I read more about miasma than I had ever known.  

Each of the following books was intriguing and I enjoyed every one of them for many different reasons.  I was intrigued at how each author connected wars/disease with various elements of religious history.  Of course, religious groups have been participant and fomenters of war itself - though I also learned details like the fact that Typhus spread more among Catholics than Protestant as Catholics were against washing for fear of being naked(!).

The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army.  I learned much about Typhus, and as much bout Napoleon and his conquests - and failures.  Fascinating.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.  Fascinating.  I loved the careful thinking and the collaborative work of a few that had to come together to, quite literally, “map” out the spread of disease. Fascinating. Well written.

True to it’s title: America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation.  Tidbits and connections to persons and histories that are “not in the history books” and yet clearly a part of the exploration and conquest (pillage?) of the Americas.  One take away that I enjoyed was how each ravaging set of conquistadors would come to various parts of the “New World” and indigenous persons learned to lure them away from their region by the promise of gold in “the next region” just beyond their own.  Sad to read the history of the spread of disease - and emboldened to read tales of the feats of women (though I don’t like tales of anyone leading the charge in battle, male or female.)

I’ll tie this next entry in with the his(story) of war/famine - as race has been used as a weapon and has waged very real wars against persons. 

The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.  The book is true to its title and narrates numerous events, stories, and persons that have contributed to a misguided “white” perception of Jesus in America.  Oh the age old ways to re-appropriate religious figures to “our” image so that persons can use that as a way to dominate, (insert sad face emoticon here!). The stories of how African American Churches used "the white Jesus" - and yet gravitated toward darker and black images of Christ was intriguing - tied to the history of race particularly in the 1960s.

Another intriguing read: Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero.  The text tells the story embedded clearly in it’s title.  I learned much about the history of the Dalai Lama and the current Dalai Lama, including the region, types of cultural heritage among the people of Nepal and responses to China (Chinese incursion).  I have a greater appreciation for the region and religion as a result.

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