History was always my favorite subject in school. I'm old enough so that multiculturalism was only beginning to make inroads into my conservative home town back when I was in high school. We had to learn about the plight of poor black washerwomen, yes, but there was still enough of the "Great Men Doing Great Things" style of teaching history that my imagination was enthralled. Many of my peers shook their heads over what a terrible, terrible man Andrew Jackson was but I thought then and still think "Damn, that dude was a stone cold badass." I read a lot of fiction these days but my bookshelves are also stocked with plenty of nonfiction histories. If I had to narrow down my historical interest to one period, it would undoubtedly be the American Civil War. That was a time when war was still cruel and glorious, before it became cruel and squalid. Grant, Lee, Jackson, Sherman... I know their lives about as intimately as you can know someone else's life without ever meeting them.
I like to think it was through my love of history that God planted the idea of becoming Catholic into my head and my heart. Bl. John Henry Newman said that to be immersed in history is to cease to be Protestant, and that was definitely the case with me. Enlightened liberals like to believe that we are much freer, smarter, and better than our poor benighted ancestors who took the Christian faith seriously enough to be moved to action and even violence on its behalf. Whatta bunch o' superstitious rubes, amirite? The medievals would have thought it bizarre to kill over which system of government we prefer, such as between, say, democracy and monarchy. It could be that human beings are prone to violence, among other sins, and that we've simply shifted our focus onto another topic we think is worth fighting and dying for. It's almost as if there was something fundamentally broken about us. Like, something went wrong with us, very very wrong with us near the beginning. Imagine that.
I learn best by reading but lots of other folks learn by doing. This is where historical reenacting comes in. I have many friends who are active in the Renaissance Faire scene. One of my then co-workers invited me to try it out. That was in Golden Gate Park about five or six years ago. They were kind enough to lend me a costume and everything. I didn't know any better so I saw the sights, wielded the pikes, and drank mead. Afterward everyone said, "I'm so sorry, that was the worst Faire ever, it's not normally like this." With my characteristic aplomb I replied, "It's cool." I went again for my second time last month. My third time was this past weekend. The Renaissance up through the end of the Thirty Years War is not my specialty - except for the popes and the Catholic Church's actions during the time of course - but it was still a lot of fun. I enjoyed it and it's put on by some great people.
There was another recent event I had heard about as well: Wasteland. Now that's something I really would have enjoyed. The focus is on Mad Max but I would have gone based as one of my many characters from Fallout: New Vegas. That is, I would have wandered the wasteland in a drunken stupor, dominating the Mojave with only my fists. Post-apocalyptic fiction has been enjoying its own renaissance for thirty or so years now, whether the world shattering event was a nuclear holocaust or a zombie war. The way things are going, it won't be so dramatic. The Prophet Mike Judge has our future pegged.