In 2011, I went with my sisters to Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello. While we were taking a tour of the grounds, one of the fellow members of the group asked if Jefferson felt any guilt about owning slaves. The tour guide gave a rather long answer, easily summed up as “no, he did not.” From the prospective of us visitors, it wasn’t pretty, but it showed that one of our Founding Fathers was just as human as we are. That’s a thought that can be both comforting and also a bit scary.
The exchange brought an another interesting thought to my mind. Often, we bring modern sensibilities and mores to the table when we are evaluating something from history. Not only that, we also use our own personal experiences to interpret the past. “Hindsight is twenty-twenty.”
This may be overly simplistic, but this lens could be referred to simply as their world view. Our interpretation of prior experiences and events shape our impressions of the world around us. We make decisions based on what we’ve been taught and what we see as true. For better or worse, in this regard, we shape the world which we experience. It could be argued that we all are moving through our own individual worlds. Every interaction we have with someone else is a place in time and space where two worlds collide. (more…)