At least you missed out on these miseries
Think your daily life is difficult? How might you have fared if the stork had deposited you in an earlier era? In his book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, author Bill Bryson shares fascinating tidbits of historical domestic trivia — most of which make me glad I wasn’t born even as relatively recently as the Victorian era, (1820–1914). If you’d landed back then, you might have endured this:
Odds are, you’d have been born into a poor family. Child labour was the norm, so you might have died young in a mine or chimney, or perhaps been maimed in a factory accident. In 19th century Britain, the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals preceded by 60 years the founding of an organization for the protection of children!
Even if you were lucky enough to have been born to an upper-class family in Victorian Britain, you’d have endured other hardships in the name of building your character. Bryson documents that one stern father of 11 children — a “gentleman” with the misleading surname of “Smiles ”— only set out breakfast for 10 of them. No coddling of slowpokes in the Smiles household!
The daughter of a then-Cambridge academic recalled that she was forbidden jam with her bread, as “anything so flavoursome would wreak havoc upon her moral fibre.”
You’d soon have learned not to defy the household rules. And thumb-suckers, beware! One popular poem of the day warned children not to indulge, lest they attract the attention of a ghoulish figure known as “the great tall tailor” who always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs
And ere they dream what he’s about
He takes his great sharp scissors out
And cuts their thumbs clean off, and then
You know they never grow again.
Your adult daily life wouldn’t have been easy either. The necessary daily task of relieving yourself would not have been pleasant. You may have used an “earth closet,” a storage tank filled with dry earth that released a measured dose of dry soil into your receptacle.
Perhaps you just used a shared chamber pot, discreetly stashed in a cupboard or closet. With luck, you weren’t the servant employed to empty it. With more luck, you might have been born later in the century. If so, you might have actually flushed — and blessed Thomas Crapper for inventing the U-bend that controlled the back waft of your toilet’s odours.
If you’re female, your miseries mount. Prepare to be squeezed into a corset. “The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine” notes in 1866 that boarders at one girls’ school were strapped into their corsets on Monday and left constrained until Saturday. That’s when they were allowed to ease their stay for an hour “for purposes of ablution.” Talk about living for the weekend.
Your resulting 13″ waist might snag you a suitor — but your marriage may well be brief due to his untimely death, or your own. Why premature death? In part, because medical treatments of the day were mostly ineffectual, not to mention, awful.
Doctors’ treatments often made matters worse. The worst outcome of all was to have to undergo surgery. Before the advent of surgical anaesthetics, your surgeon may have tried to lessen your pain by mixing laudanum into your wine, then bleeding you into faintness or injecting an infusion of tobacco into your rectum!
Even if you landed on a surgical table after the advent of anaesthetics in the 1840s, your suffering was probably only postponed. Surgeons didn’t yet grasp the importance of hand-washing or of cleaning their instruments. You may have survived your operation only to die in prolonged agony due to infection. Your doctor would then say that you succumbed to “blood poisoning.”
As a Victorian, you were likely morbidly anxious about death. Fear of a premature burial due to catalepsy — paralysis in which the victim seems dead while remaining conscious — was the dread disease of the day.
A woman named Eleanor Markham was about to be buried in 1894 when muffled noises were heard coming from her closed coffin within the hearse. She stated she’d been conscious during the burial preparations, but was unable to cry out. Using all her will, she finally made a knocking noise!
So many people became terrified of premature burial — or “taphephobia”— that one author proposed the construction of “Waiting Mortuaries” where the departed could be held for a few days to ensure they were well-and-truly-dead.
Another enterprising entrepreneur designed a device you might have contemplated purchasing to put your mind at rest. It allowed a coffin’s occupant to pull a cord, which opened a breathing tube for air and simultaneously set off a bell and started a flag waving at ground level.
Saved by the bell!
Even on my worst day, I’m glad I wasn’t born back then. You?
Einstein’s Attitudes on Different Races
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Popova, M. (2017, June 7). Albert Einstein’s little-known correspondence with W.E.B. Du Bois about equality and racial justice. The Marginalian. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/01/06/albert-einstein-w-e-b-du-bois-racism/
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Where Does the Name Wailing Wall Come From?
The nearly 2,000-year-old Wailing Wall, also known as Western Wall, or the “Kotel” for the Jews), is made up of huge blocks of stones up to 100 tons, built without binders. The space in front of the Wall, where houses used to stand not so long ago, functions as an open-air synagogue.
Between the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1967, the area was under Jordanian occupation, and the Jewish people had no access to the Wall.
During the “Six-Day War”, i.e. the third Israeli-Arab War in 1967, Israel occupied the Old City from Jordan and demolished the neighboring Arab residential area. They created a space in front of the Western Wall where the Jewish people could pray undisturbed.
Jewish men in black hats, long black coats, or simply wearing a kippah (Jewish head covering), and women are praying at an ancient wall with a screen separating them from each other.
Some Jewish men murmur prayers and bend rhythmically. It is a sign that they immerse themselves in the prayer with their entire bodies, hearts, and minds, enhancing their closeness to God, as required by the Torah.
There are shelves with countless copies of the Torah and Talmudic scriptures so that anybody can pick one of them. According to the Jewish conception, the prayers carried out at the Western Wall are much more effective.
People slip small papers containing written prayers to God into the cracks of the Western Wall.
Especially on Friday nights and on Saturday, during the sacred time of Shabbat, many families come here to pray. It is also where they celebrate the ritual ceremony of the Jewish children (the bar mitzvah) that marks their entry into adult life. The 13-year-old boys approach the Wall with their relatives accompanied by music and drums. He recites some parts of the Holy Book, the Torah and thus symbolically enters adulthood.
The official deployment of Israeli soldiers also takes place here.
The Jewish folk was first united under King David, who captured Jerusalem and made it his capital. He was probably aware of the tradition that God had designated this place for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, so he wanted to connect his kingdom with the holy place. King David started the Temple’s construction, which his son Solomon completed around 1000 BC.
It became the First Temple.
The laws of Moses, called the Torah, were preserved in the innermost part of the church. The kingdom of Israel reached its zenith under King Solomon. The First Temple stood for 400 years until 586 BC, when the Babylonians subjugated Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, and the Jews were deported to the capital, Babylon.
After returning home from the Babylonian captivity that lasted 70 years, the Jews rebuilt the First Sanctuary in the same place. This became the Second Temple.
Herod, the king of Judea, appointed by the Romans, began massive constructions. He extensively remodeled and enlarged the Second Temple around 19 BC to gain the benevolence of the Jews. He surrounded Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount) with rectangular retaining walls and refilled the area. As a result, the Temple could accommodate up to 200,000 people.
The expanding Roman Empire destroyed the Second Sanctuary in 70 AD.
The treasures of the Temple were so valuable that Emperor Titus is believed to have constructed the whole Colosseum in Rome with it. The only part that remained intact out of the Second Temple is the Western retaining wall built by Herod, hence its other name, the Western Wall.
The Wailing Wall is nothing more than a remnant of the walls built by King Herod.
Contrary to popular belief, it did not belong to the church itself; it only bordered the Temple Mount from the west side.
Today, there are two mosques on the Temple Mount just above the Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Jews cannot pray, though they can access it. The Wailing Wall is thus the closest place for them to their former two Temples that once stood and where they now mourn their destruction.
On the feast of Tisha Beav, the ninth day of the month of Av according to the Jewish calendar, the observant Jews fast to commemorate the destruction of the two Temples. People sit around on the ground, recite the book of the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah and mournful liturgical poems (kinot).
Religious Jews in Israel and those living in the diaspora pray daily for the reconstruction. It is part of many Jewish ceremonies, even weddings, to remember the destruction of the Temple.
They also believe that there will be a Third Temple in the future, but it is uncertain when exactly. Perhaps when the Antichrist reveals himself during the Great Tribulation anticipated by the Bible. And the Third Temple will be destroyed by an earthquake at Jesus’ second coming. Some religious Jewish communities are already collecting donations, and some ultra-Orthodox Jews are ready to begin the construction of the Third Temple.