I decided to write a history book that is easy enough for any (smarter than average) nine year old to understand. Becki, a distant cousin, is about nine and she is smarter than average. Way smarter.
This book is for Becki.
Originally I was going to do the book in 10 lessons but then I found out the earth is 475,000,000 years older than I thought, so I had to add one more lesson.
Becki, do you know why you are such a good typist?
It runs in our family.
Your grandfather (Ken) had an aunt named Ivie, or was it Ivy? — anyway she was the fastest typist in the British Empire.
I’m not kidding.
And in her day the British Empire was really big, it was so big the sun never set on it.
The reason the British Empire was so big was because the people in England (your great-eversogreat-grandfathers) built a huge navy and they sailed around the world and landed in different countries and then they would say that they had “discovered” these countries. (Really, the countries were there all along.)
Anyway, in places like Africa and India our eversogreat grandfathers would insist we owned these discoveries and the natives would say, “What about us, don’t we own them?”
No, we would say, we, by George, own them and then we would plant a flag (the Union Jack) and blow up anyone who did not let us be their king (or queen).
We had an advantage over the natives.
It was not that we were smarter or stronger or more cunning.
We had GUNPOWDER and it was great stuff — if you wanted to become a king or queen and make certain that natives went along with British thought.
You might wonder what British thought was.
Well, it was very simple.
The British thought they should rule the world because, well, they just thought it was a fine idea. And it was for them.
Later they called the natives “slaves.”
When the natives got tired of being slaves, they became terrorists. They stole gunpowder from the British and blew up the redcoats.
That was the color of the uniform that the British officers wore so that when they were shot in battle their men would not see them bleed and retreat in panic.
Our eversogreat grandfathers tried to think of everything.
ASSIGNMENT: Check out “Gunboat Diplomacy.”
* Historical footnote: Ivie was also my aunt but she liked your grandfather better than me. She said I was goofy. Oh well. To find out more about her, click here.
An old friend of mine, Norman Klenman, read your “history” lesson and sent me the following —
It has some wonderful ideas and solid observations. You might want to have your mom or dad go through it with you. Everything Norman wrote is in blue. Boy, he came up with some great ideas.
Hey Jaron, writers have more fun than anyone. That’s obvious when one reads a Jaron wacky tale! Actually, a pretty good history of the imperial past.
There is just one dent in it. They [the British] took education, the civil service, railway and telegraph communication to India, left it there when they were kicked out.
And now India is one of the world’s great democracies, a powerhouse economically, and so brilliant the U.S. farms out its math, science and computer tech innovation to Indians. Hmmm…maybe that will be History lesson two?
History lesson three: About three years ago, when I was in England, I watched a BBC documentary on a remote village in the South African territories.
There was to be a meeting of some kind that got natives present from all kinds of different distant backwoods regions.
Many were in native dress, and some chiefs of course in symbolic dress, though a suspicious number turned out in suits, shirts and ties, with polished shoes, and carrying spears!
There was only one bench and a table at the head of the open space. The natives all took their places seated on the ground. Three or four senior natives sat on the bench.
They had a student scribbler pad and a pen, and opened the pages. The chairman, presumably he was going to run the meeting, produced a gavel and rapped it.
There was silence. The head man directed the minutes be read. So help me god, the minutes were read, moved, seconded and approved.
A native in full dress with an ivory ring in his nose stood up toward the back of the assembled people, and said: Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order. He spoke in a fine Oxford accent.
The chairman said he recognized the speaker, asked for his name and village for the minutes, and the speaker then dealt with a complex issue, namely water pipe installation by a district contractor which had not been properly represented in the minutes.
This matter being dealt with, they went on to approve treasury expenditures and dealt with new business.
I was stunned. The British had been there, done their worst, ravaged the land, fought a stupid war against the Boers, left the place, even fought to support apartheid (some of them), and now what?
A huge country with fine Brit traditions of public order, a civil service, parliamentary government, the beginnings of education, expansion of trade, independence, and a new and burgeoning democracy.
Well, I don’t defend imperialism. But lesson three must be: Nothing is as simple as it first appears. Clichés abound in political thinking.
The emptiest barrels make the most noise. There is some good in the worst people. After all, Hitler built the autobahn.
Tell the little girl to go on and get her education. Nothing else she ever does will do her as much good, or give her as much pleasure.
I know an ex-Alberta writer who writes the most interesting columns in the nation and I wish they were carried by the National Post or the Globe and Mail. Anyway, he couldn’t have done them without a top level of education and creativity!
So Becki, your second history lesson is more important than the first one. Everyone has a different way of looking at the past. Be careful about believing anything about history. After all, Winston Churchill once wrote: “Of course history will be kind to me, I intend to write it.”
ASSIGNMENT: Look at different world maps. Do you know how to tell which country printed them? Hint. It’s usually the country that positions itself in the center. Same way with history. The country that writes the history features its point of view.
To see what a Chinese Map and a Canadian map look like go online here:
Hi, Becki —
I am glad you liked history lesson 1 and 2. Lesson 1 was that you could enjoy history more if you were connected to it so I wrote about our forefathers, the British.
Lesson 2 was how everyone has a different view of history and the country that writes the history has its own slant.
History Lesson 3 is about all the countries. Last count 192 — this is not quite accurate. If you’re linked to the internet, click here to see why.
Maybe if you went back far enough you would come to a time when there was just one group of people.
You could say they owned the whole world, but the fact is no one owns anything. The world has been around for 4.5 billion years.
People have lived on it for about 2 million years and it’s only been in the last 10 or 20 thousand years that people divided up the world into different countries.
One of the oldest icons of civilization are the pyramids. They have only been around for about 5 thousand years. The pharaohs who ruled the land of the pyramids are all dead.
No one really owns anything. If we are lucky we get to look after it for awhile. Then we are gone, back to the dust.
But between now and dust you will have a lot of fun. So don’t worry about the dust part. Maybe your generation will invent something that stops people from ever dying. A dust buster.
My generation invented the dust buster. But it had nothing to do with eternal life. Maybe your generation will hatch something that will make you live forever.
You can call it the ultimate dust buster.
Of course if no one died, we would have a bigger world population and I bet more countries.
Right now there are almost 200 countries.
Why do we have so many?
The answer is sad. People conquered each other.
They were not happy with sunsets and families, they wanted more so they talked their neighbors into attacking the people on the other side of the river or over the mountains and the winners started new countries.
Everyone attacked everyone else.
Although there was enough for everyone, some people wanted all the food and all the water.
When I was your age we all drank water out of taps. No bottled water.
Today everyone drinks bottled water. Guess what? It costs hundreds of times more for a glass of bottled water than water out of your tap and the bottled water is not as safe as ordinary water.
I’m not kidding.
If we spent the money that we squander on bottled water, then everyone in the world could drink water that was safe.
Most people would cooperate. Most countries would not.
So is the solution to pure water and harmony having one country and sharing everything?
I think so but that’s going to be harder to pull off that an ultimate dust buster.
This brings us to the end of Lesson 3 in World History.
Here is your assignment: Find out how much people spend on plastic water bottles that they throw away every day.
P.S. Once I was almost killed in the biggest pyramid in the world.
You can read about it here.
This lesson is about money — the stuff you need to buy a bike or get into the movies.
It seems no matter what you want to do you have to have a fistful of dollars.
So what’s money? And how does it relate to the history of the world?
In the days of your great-great grandparents a dollar was equal to a certain amount of gold or silver. Money represented something of value.
It does not always have to be gold or silver. It could be chocolate. I’m not kidding. Here is a story I wrote about money and chocolate.
Of course I’m being a bit silly, but you’ll still get the point:
I love it.
Forty years ago a Hershey chocolate bar cost five cents. The bar will cost $5.00 in 2010.
The dollar won’t be worth anything in a few years.
The chocolate will!
I think it’s obvious that since we no longer have a gold or silver standard that we must stabilize our economy by creating a chocolate standard.
(Today in the USA we don’t have money backing dollars, we have currency. Currency eventually becomes worthless because with nothing backing it the government can print all they want. Too bad, so sad. Very sad.)
I wish I had thought of a chocolate standard but it was the ancient Mayan culture that first tied money to chocolate.
Sophie and Michael Coes, anthropologists, document how the Mayans used unsweetened liquid chocolate as money hundreds of years ago.
One of the problems with chocolate money would be coming up with the correct formula. Should a dollar be pegged to a handful of chocolate Hershey kisses?
Or M&Ms? And then of course, how do you store your hoard of chocolate?
I would tie Sees Chocolates to the dollar.
First — Sees are good.
Second — the company is owned by one of the richest men in the world: Warren Buffet. A $10,000 investment in Buffet’s original 1956 portfolio would today be worth a staggering 250 million…after taxes!
And third — Sees Chocolates was invented by a Canadian, Mrs. Sees. (Banks in Canada never fail.)
A box of Sees chocolates costs about $13.00.
But to stock up big time and protect your investment from going stale, you’d want to buy Sees Chocolate Gift Coupons at a place like Costco. Your per-pound cost is well under $10.00.
The coupons can be traded for a pound of chocolate anytime at Sees. Forever. It’s like buying the ultimate option.
Buffet will be forced to produce and supply a pound of chocolates for much more money than you originally paid for them.
How sweet it is.
Think of the short-term possibilities. You buy a $13 coupon for under $10 at Costco and you take it to Sees and sell it to someone entering the store. (The coupons are transferable.)
Quick profit! In a few hours you earn 30-35 percent on your money.
Now think of the long-term gains. Toss the coupon in a safety deposit box, wait ten years.
I project that a pound of Sees will cost about $50 in a decade. So in the year 2015, simply take your certificate and lurk outside a Sees store.
Any Sees customer would snap up your coupon for $40. (It would save them $10.) A win-win situation.
Your original ten dollar investment would be worth four times what you had paid for it.
Put the same ten bucks in a bank today and you would be lucky to earn a dollar or two in the next decade.
Could chocolate beat the stock market? Or the bond market? Or real estate? Or fine art? Bet the farm on it.
Worst case scenario. All world markets crash and civilization ends and you can still eat your investments.
I have tracked Mr. Buffet’s investment strategies over the decades. Recently he bought huge quantities of silver. (But you can’t eat silver.)
He is now Arnold Schwarzenegger’s financial advisor as the world-famous star attempts to govern California.
From time to time Mr. Buffet meets with Bill Gates. (But Buffet does not buy software stocks.)
What is going on? Silver, Arnold and Gates are smoke screens for what Buffet is up to.
Mr. Buffet is only a heartbeat away from establishing a world chocolate standard that he plans to control. If you’re as smart as I am you’ll cash in by buying chocolate futures (Sees gift certificates at Costco).
Fair warning: Mr. Smoke Screen Buffet, we’re onto you!
So, you see, Becki, money can be backed by anything from gold to chocolate. In our next history lesson, I’ll try to explain why money is so important to countries and how it impacts world history.
Welcome to World History Lesson Five. I told you that I’d try to explain how money relates to world history.
First, let’s look at a couple of the ways people and companies deal with money.
Here’s “a letter” to me from a banker.
Dear Mr. Summers,
Since we regard you as a “partner” in our banking family, we at the Royal Bank appreciate your concerns. Rest assured, we look upon the administration of your money as a solemn duty.
You wrote to me that you felt we were “gouging customers with [expletive deleted] spiraling service fees.” Let’s look at the facts, Mr. Summers.
Suppose you have an extra $100 and you partner with us by opening an account.
After one year, we will pay you .05 per cent interest and you will have a $100.50 balance. We will have expenses such as political donations and green fees for our executives. Because of overhead, we have an annual service fee of $5.
Bottom line: at the end of 365 days, you will still have almost a $96 real balance and your money will be safe. It’s a win-win partnership.
A system of cheques and balances
If you don’t want to keep your money in our bank, you can withdraw it at any time by writing a cheque. If a clerk cashes it for you, the Royal Bank charges a reasonable teller’s fee of $2. If you use an ATM convenience card, our service fee is only 50 cents.
Your convenience card costs you $12.50 annually, but you can use it for many other transactions such as checking your account balance and each time you use that card you gain air miles. Not many, but they mount up. Especially if you measure your travel in feet instead of miles.
How can we afford to keep our service fees so low? We augment our fees with the money people entrust us with.
Suppose that Customer B writes a cheque for $50 but only has $49 in our bank. (In our Far East branches, such an action would be punishable by public whippings, but in Canada we are more lenient.)
If someone is a good customer, we will “lend” him or her a dollar so that the aforementioned $50 cheque will clear.
Since we are in the business of managing money, we charge a nominal $20 overdraft fee (plus interest). The unpaid interest on the dollar is 18 per cent. This means that we must wait a full four years to double our money.
During this time we have many expenses: bad debts, political donations, hiring people to foreclose on orphanages and so on.
If we are patient, we are eventually rewarded. One dollar at 18 per cent over 100 years turns into $33 million. (We bankers call this the Rule of 72. Divide 18 into 72 and you come up with four.
That means our money doubles every four years. How many four-year periods are there in a century? Twenty-five. Just double a dollar 25 times and you can arrive at the answer yourself. Good old compound interest.)
To heir is human, to bank is a ripoff
Happily, come rain or shine, your account will also continue to earn compound interest. Understandably, bank service fees will erode your account if you do nothing.
In the fifteenth year, if you (or your heirs) continue to neglect your account, we at the Royal will, as a courtesy, “absorb” your balance to avoid further charges to your estate.
A good thing, for we have a solemn duty to look after money in the manner that Our Father in Heaven directs us to.
So, to recap: We will, with hard work, have turned your 100 dollars into $33 million. Your original $100 account will long ago have been closed because you abandoned it. You will be dead or senile.
Mr. Summers, I’m sure I need not remind you of the liability one faces when one’s partners are both dead and/or broke.
Worse, as the years roll by, we will be burdened with more and more dead and senile customer-partners with no money. Consequently, your partners here at the Royal Bank feel justified in maintaining our present service fees.
With warmest wishes,
Gordon M. Nixon, Chairman & CEO, Royal Bank
Okay, I made up the satirical letter to illustrate a point and the point is, Becki, corporations (and countries that are made up of corporations) know how to acquire money, and the little guy (like us) usually has a hard time making much money or keeping it.
The big companies and countries end up with much of the wealth.
When it gets too lopsided, the people revolt and wars start.
When one part of a country fights another part of it you have a civil war. When countries fight each other you have regular wars. Right now there are over 100 wars.
When enough countries fight each other at the same time, you have world wars. We have had two.
By the way, included in my definition of a corporation is any group of people who form an economic band to gain wealth. What a mouthful. (Money is simply a modern term to measure wealth.)
Attila the Hun had no corporation. He had a band of followers who wanted to acquire wealth. They killed anyone in their way.
The Nazis were a band of thugs who wanted to acquire countries. And they did until the rest of the world stopped them. We call that World War II.
And in the Wild West, the settlers banded together to acquire the land of the Indians. They almost obliterated the natives who now have casinos (run by their bands) that are bent on acquiring money using modern day corporations.
Ha-ha, jokes on the cowboys and cavalry.
Here is your assignment. Think of any country at war at any time in the history of the world. Ask yourself how money (or the accumulation of wealth) was behind that war.
Hi, Becki—Here we are on Lesson Six of the History of the World.
Let’s figure out what we have talked about and try to stitch things together. Kinda connect the dots.
The First Lesson was about you and our forefathers. They were British and when we go back in our history we discovered that the British were pretty warlike and aggressive. Some of the British were bullies.
History is always more fun when you can connect yourself to it. That’s why I talked about our ever-so-great grandfather. The key to studying history is to see how you are connected to other people. So when you read something about history, look for how you relate to that something.
You’ll be surprised to find a lot of connections.
Then in Lesson Two, an old friend, pointed out that the British brought some great ideas and concepts to the people they conquered. (So some of the things that I said in Lesson One were wrong.) Now, that’s okay because there is always something wrong in all the first Lessons of all books. As a student of history it’s your job to figure out what that is.
And of course there could be more than one mistake, nevertheless, there are usually lots of things in most books of history that are true. And even if they are not true, you can learn lessons from them.
Just don’t believe everything you read. Or hear. Or see on TV.
Lesson Three was about war and how many countries are involved in it, for what seems forever. It’s terrible that there are so many wars but there are also many places on the earth where people live in peace.
They watch sunsets, fall in love, have families and walk on beaches or play in the snow.
And if you look for examples, people can be really nice to each other. Usually the papers and TV and history books carry the bad things. But that’s not how the world really is. The fact is your world is how you make it.
Lesson Four was what money is and in Lesson Five I explained how the little guy gets taken advantage by the big guy.
You have to keep your wits about you.
Sure, there are many greedy and selfish people, but there are lots of people who will be kind to you and help you to succeed. So focus on the nice people.
And that usually begins with your family.
Your assignment for this coming week is to do one nice thing for everyone in your family and don’t let them know who did it.
I promise you that you’ll certainly feel good about yourself. (Well, almost for certain.)
People want to feel good about themselves. That is one of the major reasons they go to churches (or synagogues or temples or mosques—to name a few). They have different kinds of bibles and teachings.
And now we are getting into a very important aspect of history.
Religious beliefs have probably shaped the world as much as anything.
We’ll talk about that in the next lesson.
In the meantime, remember your assignment. Do one nice thing for everyone in your family and don’t let them know who did it.
What better way is there to make history than to do something nice for your family?
PS – if you want to read more about acts of kindness, go online.
As we talked about in the last lesson, religious beliefs have shaped our history as much as anything.
Ever heard about cargoism?
It seems there were some natives who lived on South Pacific islands during World War II. They had never seen planes, at least close-up.
One day some large cargo planes swooped low and dropped supplies on the islands and the natives thought God was sending them presents.
The natives started to worship the cargo planes. They built little images of the planes. Imagine that. Did those natives ever make a mistake. Oh, boy!
Of course everyone in the “modern” world had a good laugh.
The civilized people all knew that the cargo planes were dropping military supplies for American soldiers to fight the Japanese.
We knew our side would win that war because we had the blessings of our religious leaders. The problem was, the Japanese also knew they would win because in their religion they were taught that God loved them the best.
Well, the US Air Force dropped a big atomic bomb (actually two) on Japan and blew hundreds of thousands of people to dust. The Japanese gave up but they had already killed hundreds of thousands of people.
The “dumb” cargo container natives who had been confused about God bringing them gifts in airplanes had the last laugh. Hardly any of them were killed in the war.
Yep, the people who joked at how superstitious the natives were, ended up dying–and until the last minute thinking God was on their side.
Now, Becki, in the last lesson I mentioned that if you look at any war, you will find that it started over money (or wealth). Someone wants something, so off to war they go. You could say, every possessive act starts with a hostile act.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind, in nearly all wars each side thinks God is on its side.
Obviously, a lot of people might be making some pretty big mistakes. Hint: all those losers.
Religion, or the way we see God, is supposed to help you live a better life, not make you feel better about killing someone.
So how is it that in every war, religion plays such a big part?
Here is what it is: No sane person person wants to go to war but if you can convince a person that God wants him to fight, well, you might have a mighty army.
And how do you get someone to believe that God wants him to go to war?
You get your religious leaders to tell the people that God wants them to fight, especially against the other side who often does not believe in God the way they do.
If you can convince yourself that God is on your side and you are right, then you can justify killing someone.
This is what the Holy Wars and the Crusades were all about.
Does this mean you shouldn’t believe in religion? Not at all. Most religions teach their followers how to be kind and help each other.
Can you still be a good person and have no religion?
Sure. Some great men and women have had no religion and been wonderful people. But there have also been many great religious leaders who taught we should love each other.
When it comes to finding a religion for yourself, look for one that helps you make the world a better place and teaches love.
Be careful of anyone who says that God is on his side and he or she wants you to harm someone.
That kind of person needs a good spanking.
Here is your assignment for this week. Look at any time in the history of the world.
Pick a war.
See what the religious leaders told their followers about what God wanted them to do.
To help you, Google: “religion and war.” You’ll notice that the worst wars (and the longest) are usually “religious wars.”
Why do you suppose that is?
And remember if someone says God wants you to “go to war and kill someone,” well, that person deserves a spanking.
This lesson is about inventions.
Humans have invented millions of things and they continue to do so at an astonishing rate. These inventions have determined much of our history.
Speaking of inventions, Becki, you have invented something that is incredible.
Can you guess what it is? Just think, of the six and one half billion people living on earth, you (all by yourself, on your very own) have invented something that no other person ever came up with.
Well, maybe they came up with something close, but it’s not like the one you have. This thing you have invented has done more to insure the continuation of humans than anything else under the sun.
When you look at all the inventions on earth, you have to admit that we humans have come up with some startling gadgets.
Take the wheel. Someone had to invent that, it’s really hard to ride a bike without wheels. Of course they don’t have to be round.
A car is simply an invention of a bunch of inventions: engines, batteries, spare tires, gas tanks, spark plugs and on and on. Someone even had to invent the glove compartment.
But before that they had to invent gloves. Maybe the first glove didn’t have any fingers. It was a mitten and then someone said let’s put fingers on.
In the seed of everyone there are great ideas and the history of the world would never have came about as it did if we had no inventions. There would be no planes, no trains, no buses, not even pogo sticks.
And certainly no ships so people could sail around the world. What would Magellan have done without a ship?
He would not have managed to be the first person to go around the world. He needed a ship and a way to power it. He used sails, and later people invented engines that ran on steam and turned propellers.
They invented submarines and powered them with nuclear reactors.
The Chinese invented a way to make silk. They kept it a secret for many years and killed anyone they thought would let the cat out of the bag.
If it had not been for silk, Marco Polo, the great Italian explorer, would never have been nearly as famous as he was. And there would have been no silk road–the first trade route between China and Europe.
And you would have no silk handkerchief.
Think about anything in your room. Someone had to invent it. Imagine how your world would be if computers and software had never been invented.
You no doubt have a mirror.
Look in it and smile.
Do you know that almost the first thing a baby learns is to smile? It only takes them a few weeks.
Babies are just helpless little creatures and then they smile and right away everyone makes a big fuss over them.
Without smiles, babies might not bond with their parents. Their parents might abandon them because a lot of them are very demanding and smell funny.
So each child that comes into this world soon realizes that he has to invent a smile. That becomes a part of his or her life. It is one of the most important things a human can do.
I bet you can think of thousands of ways the smile of a child could have changed the history of the world.
Guess what? Each person’s smile is unique. Just theirs. And it is a magic way to communicate with other human beings.
Of course you already knew that because when you were a little baby you invented a smile that was just yours.
Remember, I said there was something you had invented that was unique and had insured the survival through history of the human species.
It has changed the history of the world and with it you can change the future.
Smile at three people today and see how that smile can change their future.
I bet you never realized how much power you had, did you? Take a bow.
Becki, remember, if you use your smile at the right time and the right way, you’ll change the world.
PS – I invented something. Look: The Fridge Magnet.
I promised I was going to write a history book just for you. I hope you’re enjoying it. I am.
By the way, what’s the most important date in the history of the world for you? (We’ll get to that later.)
What I’ve tried to do is show you how history is exciting when you realize how it relates to you. This is why I told you about some of the people in our family that you never met.
Our great, ever-so-great, grandparents never dreamed that one day they would have someone like you reading about them.
They had never heard of plastic. They didn’t know what a microwave was. The idea that we could walk on the moon was science fiction.
And watching someone on television talking from the other side of the world, well–that was magic.
And computers? They would have been flabbergasted if they could have seen you typing on yours and looking up things on the internet.
Even the people who invented computers had no idea that millions of people would end up with laptops. They though laptops were something you balanced your tea on.
But here you are and because we both have computers I can write a lesson on history in Los Angeles and you can read it the same day in Canada. And so can a million other people if they wanted to look on my website.
In the old days there were no typewriters. Not even ballpoint pens. What you did was catch a goose, pluck one of its quills, then sharpen the quill and dip it in ink. Then you wrote with the quill.
They called that a pen. Why? Because the goose lived in a pen? Sounds good but it’s not true. (Pen is a Latin word, penna that means feather.)
It took a long time to copy a book with a quill. You usually had a whole roomful of people copying one page at a time. Then they would bind all the pages together. Boy, would they be surprised to see Xerox machines.
Then along came the printing press. Guttenberg printed the Bible about five hundred years ago. (Remember, we talked about how important religion was in history?) He could do it faster and cheaper than any group of people with quills.
Today each of his Bibles are worth several million dollars.
In the old days only rich people could afford to buy books. Now you can read the bible and thousands of other books for free on the internet.
And you know what else you can do you can look up you favorite things and how they relate to history. If you’re interested in food, Google: “food and timeline.” Dolls? Google “dolls and timeline.” War? Google: “war and timeline.”
All those dates. It makes your mind whirl, doesn’t it?
Oh, by the way, what is the most important date in the history of the world for you?
Just think of all the millions of people who could have found each other and fallen in love? It happened to your mother and father.
Maybe if your mother or father hadn’t smiled at each other when they met, you wouldn’t have been born.
Maybe if your mother had scowled at your father, he would have gone into a hardware store and bought a pair of pliers instead of talking to her.
You would not be reading this because you would not exist, even though your father would have ended up with some good pliers. Wow!
But lucky for you, things worked out.
You got born! At a time when people can fly to the moon and talk to each other on the other side of the world.
Why, if something went wrong with your heart, you could get a new one. That’s never happened before in the history of the world.
So what are the two most important birthdays after yours?
I bet it’s the one your mother has and the one your father has.
So make sure you write down their birthdays and remind yourself a week in advance to make each of them a nice card and give them a present, the ones you make yourself are always the best.
You can automatically send yourself an email to remind you of their birthdays. Just go here. (While you are at it you can send a note to yourself to remind you of your brother and sister’s birthdays.)
Have fun being nine years old, pretty soon you’ll be ten.
This book is almost finished. Just one more lesson to go.
Thank you for letting me ramble on and share some of my thoughts with one of the most important people on earth. You.
As you have probably guessed this book isn’t like most history books.
There are almost no dates.
The only dates worth remembering are your birthday and those of your family and friends.
Birthdays are great when you are young but when you grow up they just remind you how much fun it was to be young.
So enjoy your birthdays now and then later you’ll have something to look back at and smile about.
The reason I wrote a history book of the world for you was so that you could see how you are connected to the world.
That’s about the only use history is. To see how we each fit into it. All the rest is kind of boring. I hope I have left the boring parts out of this book.
Here are some boring dates – 1066, 1215, 1492.
The reason they are boring is that most of the stuff about those dates is not what really happened just what people think happened or worse what people, who have an ax to grind, want you to think about those dates.
This brings us to:
You might wonder how I came up with those three words.
I wrote down a bunch of words that I thought would be fun to write to you about. Now those three are left over. Writers have funny minds, don’t they?
And, now that I think about it, it seems to me that Magic, Music and Medicine are part of every culture that ever existed. I can’t think of a time in history when those three words weren’t around.
Maybe you can think of a time when peoples’ lives didn’t deal with Magic, Music and Medicine. Maybe the people used different terms but it all boiled down to those three words.
You remember what I said about religion? That if any religious leader told you God wanted you to harm someone, that religious leader deserved a good spanking.
I think it’s the same way with Magic, Music and Medicine.
Take Medicine. Ever hear of Hippocrates? He was a famous Greek physician and he said to all his pupils: “First do no harm.” Today doctors swear an oath to Hippocrates. It’s longer than that but basically they promise not to harm their patients.
So when you need a doctor and some help with medicine, find one who won’t harm you. And how do you do that? Well, see who the other doctors go to when they are sick. That would be a good start.
Music. Most of it’s good. Singing and dancing is fun and makes you feel alive and connected. Or it should. But just like religion, don’t pay any attention to anyone who sings songs (or raps) with a message that has to do with hurting someone.
People who encourage others through music (or anything else) to hurt each other need to be spanked. Singers who tell you to hurt someone else are not very grown-up. No wonder they claim to live in cribs.
Magic. Magic is an illusion. (In many ways it’s just like old history books. Fake stuff.)
What is the biggest illusion in today’s world? It’s TV and movies.
You can learn a lot from TV and movies.
But once again, if the movie stars and directors and writers make something that suggests you hurt someone, or try to persuade you to harm people, DON’T fall for it.
If you are at a movie, walk out and ask for you money back. Turn to another TV channel. You’re in charge.
Stand up for what you believe in.
A nine-year-old girl can strike terror into the biggest, toughest theater owner in the world if she starts yelling for her money back and threatening to call “the authorities.”
Those three things run through every culture that existed – from cavemen to spacemen.
You can learn a lot about history by seeing how different people regard those three things.
You assignment for is to write down the best thing in today’s world about those three words: Magic, Medicine, Music.
Some people will tell you that in our world there is no such thing as magic. Those same people say magic is just superstition.
Ha, ha–joke’s on them.
They have no idea what it feels like to watch a sunrise or a panda bear.
It’s your job to wake them up.
P.S. Here’s a story I wrote about magic, medicine and music (and money):
The Inside Poop
Of the Rich and Famous
Mr. Richard (Rich) Twit, the world’s wealthiest man arose after a long and sleepless night. Several of his zillion dollar mergers were not going well. Mrs. Twit had a frightful headache and there had been no fun for Mr. Twit for some weeks now.
The government was threatening yet another suit to bust up Mr. Twit’s many, many conglomerates.
Mr. Twit slogged into his world-famous bathroom that had been featured seven times in Architectural Digest to relieve himself and as he walked across the warm marble, heated to body temperature, he stubbed his big toe on a gold door stop.
He screamed curses and twelve servants and three body guards galloped to his aid.
Meanwhile, the world’s poorest man, Mr. Henry (Happy) Twit, got up in his grass hut in Tahiti and smiled at his wife. They had laughed and danced and sang all night long to the sounds of the crashing surf.
Happy Twit stood in the doorway of his grass hut and looked out the beautiful blue Pacific. His seven children were already up, picking fruit for breakfast. Happy Twit had six cents to his name.
Happy Twit walked along the sandy beach and beside an old palm tree spent a pleasant five minutes taking care of his personal duties.
Meanwhile the world’s richest man sat on his throne, praying that he could relieve himself. What added to his agitation was the south wall of his 7,000 square foot bathroom.
That wall was a giant, fifty-five million dollar flat screen TV and on it Rich Twit had programmed a peaceful seascape of the Pacific with big white fluffy clouds.
It was a wonderful piece of magic, a calming illusion. When it worked.
Instead of a seascape, the ocean looked like the whirling innards of a spin-dry washing machine.
Not good for the relaxation that the doctors said Rich Twit needed so he could empty his bowels.
Rich Twit screamed for electricians and computer programmers and video engineers.
Within seven hours they found that a nine cent transistor had been damaged when the world’s richest man had struck the wall with his fist the previous day because he was frustrated that the world’s most powerful laxatives gave him minimal relief.
Meanwhile, the world’s poorest man was swimming and laughing and dancing and singing with his children and grandchildren when a helicopter landed.
Out of the helicopter appeared a Fedex Delivery Man. He presented the world’s poorest man with a box, the size of a phone booth.
Happy Twit opened the box and found a dozen computers and a gadget that made electricity to run them. There was also a satellite radio and some other things to access the internet.
These were all gifts from Twit Enterprises. The richest man in the world had researched his genealogy (a note said) and discovered that he had some distant relatives in Tahiti. The gifts were so Happy Twit and his children could live better lives.
Happy Twit was delighted.
Here is what he did: He used the computers for boat anchors.
He used the telephone equipment for a counter weight on a rope so his kids could have a good swing.
That left the box. From that he made a wonderful little covered outhouse so he could keep dry during the rains and still watch the ocean playing tag with itself.
The following morning, the world’s poorest man walked to his new outhouse. He was singing. And he did a little dance step.
Half way around the world, a team of surgeons wheeled the world’s richest man into an operating theater, located in the world-famous, billion dollar Twit International Hospital, so the specialists could split him open and start working on his impacted bowls.
This is the final lesson. Thanks for hanging in there and sending me so many terrific e-mails.
When you come to visit us in California I will show you our new kitchen.
It’s not exactly new, we rebuilt it after the last earthquake. No fun, I’ll tell you. (But it made a good story, for another time.)
We made the counters out of granite slabs.
The granite is exactly one billion and 12 years old. Exactly. So we might have a new kitchen but it’s made out of old rock. (And some of my wife’s tears—that’s even a better story but not for now.)
You might ask me how I know that the granite is exactly 1,000,000,012 years old.
Answer: When I bought the granite 12 years ago the salesman said that the granite was a billion years old. So our counter top has to be 1,000,000,012 years old.
Pretty, silly huh?
But it’s no more silly than a lot of people who lecture on history.
Believe it or not, there was an Archbishop of Trinity College in Dublin, who told people that God created this world on Sunday 23, October 4004 BC. His name was James Ussher (1581-1656) and you can read about him.
I don’t know if you believe in dinosaurs.
Scientists claim they were kicking around on earth 100s of millions of years ago.
In my opinion the earth could be quite a bit older than the archbishop figured. But then I believe in dinosaurs. Although it’s hard to figure out what dinosaurs really looked like.
But anyway, I believe in them, even if they turn out to be giant chickens. So maybe they were scratching around, not kicking.
Nobody really knows about history, Becki. That’s the point of this book.
We can’t really be sure about what happened millions of years ago, or even hundreds of years ago because whoever comes up with certain facts, looks at the world through their special perspective.
You can’t even be sure what happened last week if you have to depend on what people say happened. This is why there are so many court cases. People see things so differently.
All points of view are a little bit wrong and little bit right.
The way you see life is just as important as anyone else’s on earth. Your point of view begins with the way you were raised. The way you are connected to others.
The connection starts with you and your family.
Your family is the best treasure you will ever have.
Deep down inside you know this is true. Heck, even babies know it’s true. Remember how one of their first things they do is learn how to smile? So they can connect.
One of the most fun things is “doing your own history.”
By living the best you can every day and then writing what happened to you in a journal.
That history for you will be truer and more accurate than anything historians will come up with.
And someday your children and their children and their children can read your journal.
They will feel connected to you.
And as the years pass and you read your journal, you will be astounded by the things you thought when you were ten or 20 or 40 or 100.
Let me give a few suggestions.
Write your journal in pen and ink on good paper (acid free or it’ll get all mushy after a few decades). Try to write a little bit each day. Pictures and cartoons are great, but do them yourself.
When you have a year completed, make a copy of it. You can even scan it and make an electronic copy. Always keep a printed copy.
Good ink on good paper lasts a lot longer than hard drives and CDs. And you can use ink without electricity so if you go camping all you need is a journal and a pen.
Kate and I are sending you a journal (with acid free paper that you can read when you write in it for the next 100 years, maybe 200) for your birthday, tomorrow: March 18th.
It has a nice red leather cover. Would you like your name on it? Or your initials?
Hope you had fun being nine.
Ten will be better, especially when you become your own historian.
P.S. By the way, if you want to find out a lot of current information about any country, try the NatGeo Website. Here are some insights to Canada.