As a student of history, occasionally an odd tidbit stands out and catches my eye and interest.
From 500 years ago comes this strange ban I'm willing to bet most people have either not heard of or haven't paid much attention to -- the Great Wood Ban of Amsterdam.
Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain and Archduke of Austria all at once, Charles V was arguably the most powerful man on the European continent. He absolutely loved everything about the Romans -- their culture, cuisine and beautiful ladies, certainly, but their architecture more than anything.
Charles was fascinated with the stone buildings, columns and arches of Rome and Constantinople. He was embarrassed by the architecture of his own home of Amsterdam, famously the "City of a Thousand Wooden Homes," and a destination city for aspiring architects of the early 16th century. But Charles lamented the impermanence of structures that could rot and burn.
"To Rome I've been, where the ruins of Caesar live eternal in stone," Charles is quoted as saying. "To ancient Constantinople I've walked, the mighty walls of Theodosius a gift for the ages. Yet here I stand, the very smell of rot punctuated only by the creak and groan of desiccated monoliths, cut from the sweet succor of Gaia's breast to stand, monuments to the vanity of man. Like the trees that bore these planks, this will not stand."
Charles therefore decreed in October that no more wooden structures could be built, and that all wooden buildings must be torn down and replaced with stone structures from that time forward.
Just seven months earlier in March 1521, Charles V had also banned the books, sermons and writings of Martin Luther and his followers, ordering that all the materials were to be burned. The emperor had no patience for the Protestant movement that had begun with Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517.
Charles has been venerated as a hero of the Catholic church and a quasi-messianic hero to the Jewish people, but the enemy of Muslims and Protestant Christians.
I suppose it depends upon one's individual beliefs today how each of us may perceive the man and his choices.
I'm sure it's the same for every major historical figure. If there are people who love a leader, there are people who hate him or her. Maybe each one has legitimate cause for their feelings.
History is a funny thing. Certain things happened and we will never know exactly what happened at pretty much any historical event -- only the things we are told in first-hand accounts, legends, etc. Even with first-hand accounts, truth is determined from what is consistent among the testimonies of witnesses. Those in law enforcement and the judicial system know that when a story is repeated word-for-word by multiple witnesses, it is more likely to be falsehood than truth.
We interpret what we see and experience through our own lenses of perspective and experience. But the truth remains the same regardless, immutable.
I don't know how people will interpret any of my choices and actions years after I'm gone. I don't know if any them will even be remembered.
But if they are, I'm sure some will be misunderstood and misinterpreted. It's the nature of things.
But some will understand and interpret correctly and learn from those choices and actions. I hope whether I made the right choices or acted poorly, future generations, especially my own descendants, will learn from what I did and didn't do and be able to make the right choices and act well.
May God grant that I make the right choices, and make them consistently, so that a good example awaits my grandchildren and their grandchildren, and so on.
The year 2021 is a new opportunity to live well, and so is every day I wake up. I pray I live today well.
I pray you do, too.