“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach”--Aldous Huxley, English Novelist and Critic
Today is the second Monday in October. Annually, this constitutes the observation of Columbus day. We remember him. Christopher Columbus. In grade school we probably learned about his voyage ships: Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. We probably understood in fourth grade that he discovered America. Most likely, we learned of his voyage and have since forgotten. For me, this history has been archived in dusty corners of my mind and can be simply summed up with the familiar rhyme:
"In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
Yet, if we grasp onto the spade of curiosity and hollow out a bit of historical excavation there is more to be had. A little "Google-ing" lead me to a few facts about Columbus previously unknown. We should be aware that Columbus really wasn't the first explorer to navigate to "the Americas." He was preceded by the Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, who built a temporary settlement there 500 years previous. So, why do we remember Mr. Columbus?
Columbus' voyage and discovery came at a time of economic competition between nations and kingdoms when each were developing viable trade routes. In short, Columbus and his voyages had a spreading effect that created European awareness of the American continents in the west. Second, he stayed in contact. Historian, Martin Dugard, writes, "Columbus' claim to fame isn't that he got there first, it's that he stayed."
Here are a few other facts of interest:
1. The Europeans showed little interest at the time of Columbus' discoveries in the west.
2. Columbus did not believe in the flat earth. The round shape of the earth had already been known.
3. Columbus was highly venerated in America dating back to Colonial times with America often being called Columbia (beginning in 1738), Columbia being the capital city of both Ohio and South Carolina, a river named Columbia, and the federal capital named The District of Columbia in the latter end of the 18th century.
So, it is Columbus day and here is the bottom line: the men and women of history probably didn't know they were making history in their present time. They simply lived their lives and pursued their daily doings. Second, the meaningless moments of today could become the priceless memories of yesterday. The great things of history often go unrecognized by those nearest to them. We never know until we take a look!
Happy Columbus Day!