Thursday, January 18, 2007

One 365th of Reality

[posted by Callimachus]

Some days, seeking inspiration or to fend off boredom, I look at the list of events that happened on a given day of the calendar throughout history.

[Warning: Don't go looking for connections, or you'll end up like the guy in "Pi," one of my all-time favorite films.]

On January 18th in one year or another, for instance:

  • Saint Mark was elected pope;
  • Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, Peru;
  • Georgia left the union;
  • an airplane landed on a ship for the first time;
  • a meteorite hit a house in Missouri;
  • Woodrow Wilson unveiled his "Fourteen Points;"
  • Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Artie Shaw performed at the Met in New York;
  • plans for the World Trade Center were unveiled;
  • The Beatles hit the "Billboard" charts for the first time;
  • Eastern Air Lines went out of business;
  • Matt Drudge broke the Lewinsky affair story.

You learn that Montesquieu and Curt Flood had the same birthday (today, as it turns out), and they shared it with Daniel Webster and A. A. Milne ("Winnie the Pooh"). That on the same day (today, as it turns out), 18 years apart died Rudyard Kipling and Curly from The Three Stooges.

The calendar is a great blind cleaver of life, more like justice than justice itself. Each date is a world in miniature, where the famously obscure and the obscurely famous mingle with whoever else was born that day, or had a notable experience.

Such as:

[January 18,] 1884 - Dr William Price attempts to cremate the body of his infant son, Jesus Christ Price, setting a legal precedent for cremation in the UK.

... !

Here's more:

Dr. William Price (4 March 1800 – 23 January 1893) of Pontypridd, South Wales, was a physician and a famous eccentric, best known for introducing cremation to the United Kingdom.

He was a prominent Welsh Chartist and was forced to flee to Paris, France, after his part in the Newport Rising of 1839. He was an equally prominent Druid and exponent of 19th-century Druidic traditions, appointing himself as archdruid.

As a child, Price caused consternation by walking the hills naked. In later life, his list of eccentric behaviours included wearing a fox-skin headress, never wearing socks (which, he thought, were unhygienic), refusing to treat smokers, only accepting payment from patients he failed to cure, and washing every coin he received. He was also a vegetarian, saying that eating meat "brought out the beast in man".

He is remembered chiefly as the performer of the first legal cremation in the United Kingdom, which took place on 18 January 1884, when he attempted to burn the body of his five-month-old son, Jesus Christ Price (Iesu Grist Price in Welsh). The infant was the illegitimate son of Price, who was 83 years old, and his housekeeper. As part of his druid faith, William Price believed that burial was a sin against the earth and felt that cremation was a much better option, even though this was widely thought to be illegal in Britain at the time.

"A statue of Price now stands in Llantrisant, depicting the doctor in his trademark fox-skin headdress, arms outstretched" but, presumably, clothed.

I won't spoil it by printing more.