While meandering across the web, I ran across a page that has an image of Schindler’s list. The list itself…the original typewritten, folded, smudged document.
It’s available as a pdf link on this page (you’ll have to go to the page and then open the .pdf to see it. Might take a while to load; it did for me.)
Knowing what that document represents, I found it incredibly moving. In all of the madness of that place and time, those frayed pages represented the thinnest of lifelines for the people whose names and numbers were so hurriedly typed. It was by no means certain that the Nazis would even recognize the authority of the list.
I felt like I was looking at sacred text.
Well, a .pdf of sacred text, anyway. You know what I mean.
I got to thinking about how neat it is that I can reach across time and distance from my comfortable office and look at this flimsy paper shield that once stood between real people and the worst possible fate.
Certainly much of history’s heroism and progress wasn’t recorded in documents in the first place, and many documents that did exist have been lost.
But there are other “sacred documents” in the world; other pieces of paper that represent something larger, something better, for the lives of real people. Even if they didn’t save lives in the same explicit way, these documents improved the human condition.
Because I was fascinated, I dug up a few for starters. Not just the words, but actual images of the original documents.
US Charters of Freedom at the National Archives Starting with the big ones: the Declaration of Independence, Costitution, and Bill of Rights.
The Emancipation Proclamation “A poor Document, but a mighty Act.”
The Gettysburg Address For its length, the greatest speech in the English language.
The Magna Carta While its immediate effect on human freedoms was nothing like the myths that have grown up around it – it was much more an establishment of baronial rights than an emancipation of the human spirit – this became the archetype for future uses of the written word to constrain the power of despots and establish rights and freedoms.
Feel free to comment or to add some of your own favorites.