Muhammad Ali’s life forever changed when he won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in 1964 – not just because Ali had proven himself to be a champion inside the ring, but because that was when the world found out who the man that they knew as Cassius Clay was outside of the ring. He was, among other things, a Black Muslim, a friend to Malcolm X, and a man who would not stay silent about the things he believed in.
The end of Prohibition was an incredible, inimitable moment. Jubilant crowds gathered as liquor flowed through the streets of the United States. People crawled out from the dark of the speakeasies and out into the open, raising their glass and drinking a toast to their first legal drop of alcohol in 13 years.
Kindergarten changes everything.
For five years, we’ve raised our child on our own. We taught him to walk and talk. We taught him about the world around him and how to tell right from wrong. We taught him everything he knows – and now everything is going to change.
Kindergarten, for many parents, is the first time you really hand your child off to someone else. Now, for eight hours a day, he will be surrounded by other teachers, other ideas, and other peers – influences that aren’t his parents.
It’s a terrifying thing to let go of that absolute control you have over your child. Suddenly, your child stops being the product of your parenting alone. From now on, their futures and their identities hinge on the public school system, on the teacher they get stuck with, and on the classmates who befriend them.
From here on out, kids’ friends are a bigger part of their life than ever. They’re going to change who your child is. They spend the better part of the day with your child, and they might even end up having more influence on who your child becomes than you do.
That’s a scary thought. It’s hard to let go and trust the world with your child but every parent has to do it. It helps to know that more good will come from this than you think.
A century ago, China was not the metropolis-filled industrial nation that it is today. It was another world entirely, with cultures that were in many ways equally distinctive.
In the China of the Qing dynasty — which ended in 1912 with the rise of what would soon be called the Kuomintang nationalist party — every part of life, from pastimes to clothes, differed from what we see today. Girls’ feet were painfully bound in order to change their shape, men wore their hair in long braids, and Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist thought dominated the nation.
When she was in high school, my mother-in-law took an aptitude test. She had an exceptional mind for engineering, the test said, scoring in the 99th percentile for math and science. As a woman who excelled in science, her guidance counselor told her, she would make a perfect librarian.
It’s a moment that changed her life. When the door to a career in science was closed on her face and she was told to pursue a woman’s job instead, she listened. She never became an engineer, but every time she tinkered with a broken household appliance, she would wonder what might have been.
Today, women have a lot more opportunities than our parents’ generation did, but that doesn’t mean their prospects are completely equal. Even with laws that promise equal careers, women have to struggle against the weight of history.
Ever wondered whether Japanese Samurai could beat Spanish Conquistadors? Or if the Roman Legion could fight an ancient Chinese army, or if an army of War Elephants would stand a chance against modern artillery?
Some of those “who would win” battles that we love to wonder about do not have to be imagined—they have played out in real life. Scattered throughout history, there are moments when fighters and armies that no one would ever have expected to meet, stared each other down across a battlefield. And only one side walked out alive.
Finding the truth in our history is like trying to solve a crime after arriving at the scene 2,000 years too late. We analyze the evidence left behind, we listen to the witnesses, and we make our best guess—but we rarely know for sure what really happened.
There are few better examples of just how murky the truth can get than the Great Fire of Rome. We have a handful of stories and a few half-melted coins still buried in the ashes of old Rome, and we have to pick through them to find the truth.
It’s difficult to know who started the Great Fire of Rome and what fallout ensued. Every group had an interest in this story, and every version of it comes with a political agenda attached. There are a lot of different versions of the story, and no one knows for sure who was telling the truth.