This is a proverb I’ve found to be true in a great many cases. The basic principle is one that I try to instill in my students. I teach ancient history, which is often very remote for 21st century undergraduates until they are able to see that regardless of time, hairstyles or a centuries long “oddity” of men wearing skirts, human beings are more or less the same. Placed in similar circumstances, humans are rather predictable in their attitudes and decision making. A piece of ancient news (how’s that for a fabulous oxymoron?!) came across my Facebook feed today courtesy of a pal (Hi Pal!) that illustrates this beautifully.
I have been complaining pretty much non stop the past few days about being sick. I had great plans for my Spring Break which have been more or less been canned by a rotten stomach flu. Yesterday afternoon, still feeling crummy, I had just shipped my daughter off to a Lenten service with my parents and was preparing to lay down for a while when my sister called needing help in a transferring her two cats between the vet and home with only one carrier. I ended up sitting in the car for thirty minutes with the post surgical cat sans carrier while she was inside with the other one.
My internal whine-alogue was in high gear wondering why no one seemed to realize that I am unwell…sitting in a car babysitting a cat who won’t come out from under the seat…why didn’t she just buy another stupid carrier…and so on. When she came to reclaim her cat, I went on my gloomy way, planning to stop at the market. I needed more ginger ale to settle my stomach, and while I was there, I would grab something for my husband to eat for dinner since both kids were covered, and heaven knows an adult male who once worked as a chef won’t be able to manage by himself if I’m physically in the house. I was almost through the store when I got a text from my oldest looking for a ride home from play rehersal…I could have cried. NOW?!! I texted back….no answer…typical. My mind had already settled on the comforting reality of going home to grab a short nap while the house as still quiet, but that was not to be. My martyred sensibilities were griping all the way to the school and then back as I crabbed aloud about how nobody cared that I didn’t feel well…that I would need to be actually dead before somebody wasn’t calling me to do something for them…and on and on and on.
I’m sure it was a pretty good show…my son certainly seemed to enjoy it based on all of the eye rolling and sighing he was doing. I was gratified to see that my put upon attitude is not unique to me…it’s not even unique to my millenium. Humans have always had a tendency toward passive aggressive melodrama, as a recently translated letter, written on papyrus in the 3rd century AD illustrates handily.
From what the translator, a Rice University graduated student can make out, this is a letter written by a Roman soldier of Egyptian heritage (Egypt had been annexed by Rome in 31 BC) writing home from his post in Pannonia in south eastern Europe. A long way from home and missing communication from his family, he wrote,
Ah, that vaguely bitchy, passive aggressive, aggrieved tone. Yes, I know it well. This isn’t a particularly ancient sentiment, or a modern one either. I’d say it’s more of a universally human response. In a world that sometimes seems to change faster than I can keep up with, it’s somewhat comforting to know that some things, like good old pissiness, are essentially immutable 🙂
It did make me think though,