Talking history in the present tense

Servetus, from Wikipedia entry

I was at



Getting oriented.

Learning about the institution

(I used to scorn that word,


But not anymore.)

We were sitting on a



Joe’s arm around my shoulders.

He pushed his fingers into my hair

And swirled the hair follicles of my scalp

With the pads of his fingers as we listened to

The glossy tenor voice of the

Dreadlocked minister

Describe 500 years of

Unitarian history.

I had forgotten how academics talk history:

In the



“In the 16th century,

Michael Servetus

Studies the Bible …

Concludes …

Does not accept …

Is burned at the stake …”

And it was not just the theme of Servetus’

Nagging, then



That fascinated me.

It was the



The minister used to describe him,

With its implication that

History is

Alive, is


And that in thinking and

Talking about these people and events

We keep open the possibility of repeating these experiences,

For good,

Or bad,

Or neither.

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