I just came across this quote from the excellent James Baldwin.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” -James Baldwin
I love this quote. One of the benefits I’ve experienced from reading widely, particularly in history, is learning that (as the Preacher says) there is “nothing new under the sun.” No matter the trial along the wide spectrum of causes for physical and mental and pain–disappointment, loss of a loved one, loneliness, making poor choices, addiction, hunger and thirst, torture, dealing with infertility, being taken advantage of, or having expectations break against the rocks of reality–there is someone who has been there before. And almost always, there are many someone’s, most of them invisible and nameless, but surely and definitely there.
And to be quite honest, knowing that draws me toward a strange feeling of global citizenship–global not just in space, but also in time, drawing me back with a new affection for my ancestors stretching back thousands and thousands of years. Again: mostly nameless and invisible, having left no records behind, but there all the same. It’s strange, I think, but comforting.