23 July 2020

History - true or false or irrelevant ?

A brand new school opens freshly painted doors to welcome its first students to their first classes.

An enthusiastic history teacher, Anna Chronism, arrives to face her first students in her first class ever.

In her defence, she considers that she is not simply teaching history, but helping to make history.

She arrives to find three young women sitting in a row, all have their heads bowed down, each is reading a book.

She is a bit surprised to observe that the covers of the three books are exactly the same.

"Morning everyone," says the teacher. "Enjoying your book?"

"Yes Ma'am" the three say in unison as they look up.

She gasps. The three girls are dressed quite differently and yet appear to be physically identical. The first has baggy cargo shorts, loose top and tattoos on her arm, the one next to her has a pleated skirt, a fitted black T-shirt, loose blouse over it, and prominent crucifix showing at her neck, and the third is dressed in a long pants and a jacket with a belt at the waist. Despite the variation in what they are wearing, the three girls appear to be physically identical: same eyes, same nose, same hair, same height, same build.

As she seeks to calm herself, Anna asks the three girls what book they are reading.

The girl with the tattoos responds first: "I dunno!"

Anna asks her her name, she responds: "People call me Mysteryy. That’s with an extra ‘y’ at the end."

Nodding, Anna asks, "So Mysteryy, aren't you interested in the book, its name, its author?"

"Yes, yes, I am interested in the book, it is a great book, I'm really enjoying it. But I judge a book by the contents, not by the cover, not by the title, not by the author."

The wearer of the crucifix raises her hand offering her explanation, "Excuse me Miss, it is a book called Silas Marner by George Eliot."

And what's your name" she asks?

"I'm called Faith."

She turns to the third one wearing a jacket, and remarks: "You appear to be reading the same book. What do you think of it?"

"Well, not exactly the same book, because we each have our own copy. But yes it appears to be the same book that Mysteryy and Faith are reading. Its proper title is Silas Marner: the weaver of Ravelhoe, and the author's name was Mary Anne Evans, but she published under the name George Eliot."

The teacher is impressed. The other two young women are not.

"And your name?"

"I’m Verity."

"And all three of you are from the one family?" Anna asks.

The girls laugh out loud.

"Not likely" says Faith responding to the confusion showing in the teacher's eyes.

"Forgive me my presumption. But you all look very similar. Perhaps if you each tell me a little about your history. Who wants to start?"

Mysteryy says: "Well, my history is unknown. I was a foundling left on the doorstep of a kindly couple. There was no information left with me, I don't know where I was born, I don't know when I was born, I don't know my parents. And I don't know much beyond the names of the couple that raised me for the first five years as they then died in a car accident. I was then transferred to another couple who have looked after me for the last ten years. So I don't know my early life, but it doesn't seem that important to know it. I'm here and I'm happy. That's what counts, right?"

"Well yes, I'm glad to have you here today, and yes, I guess that is what counts," admits Anna.

Mysteryy nods and smiles.

Faith follows: "Well, I know my history perfectly. My parents tell me that I was conceived through the grace of God on the day of St Peter and St Paul which is June 29, and I was born nine months later on 1 April 2006 which was a Saturday. This was a sign of God's blessing because it would have been awkward if Mum had laboured on Sunday. God has commanded that we must not labour on the Sabbath in recognition of His act of creation, and His resting on the seventh day."

Verity, flicking her long blond hair with a hand, and offers her own thoughts: "Actually, Saturday is the Sabbath. Sunday is the first day of the week."

The teacher delicately intervenes, "Yes, there are a variety of views. It’s Verity, right? What’s your story?"

"I was given up for adoption by my mother who was a drug addict, and she died of an overdose shortly after my birth. My father was incarcerated before my birth, and died in prison without ever seeing me. I was one of three identical girls, but we were separated at birth and I ended up with a couple of lawyers, Marie & David. She’s now a judge, he’s a retired lawyer and they’ve looked after me all my life. So that's my history."



Which of the three girls is happier? Why?

How important is history?

Is it important for history to be true?

Will false history serve just as well as ‘true’ history?

Is it better to have a history, even false, than none at all?



The celebrated case of the ‘three identical strangers’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Identical_Strangers) provides a factual - even historical - basis for this "thought-story" (as pictured at the right). 


The image at the opening of this thought-story shows the Levesque triplets: https://levesquetriplets.com/  


  1. Hey good food for thought. BTW guess you know that this picture is of triplets separated at birth for a "twins study" ... Think of the ethics and consequences ... A great documentary from their perspective is at https://www.sbs.com.au/movies/movie/twinning-reaction-0

  2. Good food for thought ....
    BTW guess you know that the picture is of triplets separated at birth for "Twin studies". An amazing doco is at https://www.sbs.com.au/movies/movie/twinning-reaction-0