We all have them. Recently, the state of California in the USA banned plastic ones from being distributed by retail markets citing environmental concerns. Where did the first bag come from? Whose bright idea was that non-rigid carry-all we use for everything from books to bananas, wool to wall plugs?
Bags are another one of those everyday things that, although often taken for granted, played a large part in the advancement of human civilization. Bags or sacks allowed mankind to transport food items, to venture farther from their home base to gather materials, both for building, consuming, or for protection. Before the bag, mankind had to carry things in his/her hand or on one’s back. The term “bag” is most likely from the Proto-Indo-European word “b’ak” which became the Norwegian “baggi” but it also very similar to the Welsh “baich” meaning load or bundle and the Greek “bastagma” meaning load.
Paper was originally used for wrapping and padding in Ancient China since the second century BCE. However, paper bags were not introduced until the Tang Dynasty, 618-907 ACE. And even then, they were used as tea bags and to preserve the flavor of the tea. Egyptian hieroglyphics show males with bags around their waist. Were these ancient men the wearers of the first fanny packs? The New Testament of the Bible mentions the disciple Judas Iscariot carrying a bag. Often these bags were referred to as girdles since they were worn around the waist. Later in the Middle Ages, women took the basic girdle and attached straps and suddenly bags became fashion statements as purses.
During the nineteenth century, while bags were quite the rage in Europe, a little girl was born in York, Maine, USA. Her father died when she quite young and at the age of twelve, she went to work in a cotton mill. At the age of thirty, she became the second woman to ever be awarded a US patent. The woman, Margaret Knight, would go on to become the most prolific woman inventor in the United States of America. Her invention was the flat-bottomed paper bag.
Ms. Knight invented a machine that folded and glued paper to form the flat-bottomed born paper bag still used in retail establishments worldwide today. However, her invention was stolen and a patent was awarded to the thief. Knight successfully sued , filing a patent interference lawsuit, and received her rightful patent in 1871. Knight’s bright idea, the original box-making machine currently is on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Her other inventions included a numbering machine, a window sash and frame, and other devices related to rotary engines. Before her death at the age of 76, Margaret Knight was awarded the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour by Queen Victoria and, in 2006, inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
What about the bags we carry around in our head? I’m referring to that excess baggage from last year or the year before that or…well, you know what I mean. As Maria Shriver stated in a recent post on her website, “We all travel through life with baggage, which evolves from painful, harmful or negative experiences and from interactions that caused a significant emotional reaction within you. These feelings continue to shape who you are, how you think, the choices you make and the actions you take now.”
In her January 5th post, Shriver continues: “There are two main types of baggage: what you see and are well aware of (excess), and what you don’t see and aren’t aware of (hidden). The baggage you see but choose not to acknowledge or unload can become a problem. Your choice to ignore it means that for some reason you are allowing it to interfere with your life, your relationships and your future. The interesting thing about excess baggage is that it becomes almost comfortable to carry. It’s as if you become so used to carrying this extra weight that you don’t realize how much more you could see and do if you were carrying a lighter load.”
Maria Shriver’s bright idea is to write down that excess baggage or at least write down how it has affected you. Then put it in a bag, maybe one of Margaret Knight’s bags and take it EVERYWHERE. After carrying it around for thirty days, Shriver says to tear it up and throw it away. Some cultures and religions do something similar by making a family tree of hurts and then burning it. However you elect to rid yourself of your old baggage, remember that you aren’t throwing away something familiar and effective….just something familiar.
Your bright idea in 2015 could be to not carry anything but good things from last year to this year. Whether you utilize one of Margaret Knight’s bags or list your baggage like Maria Shriver advocates, just make sure that whatever you carry it your bag is healthy, helpful, and happiness-making. Maybe you could find a bag and fill it with some old clothing and then donate that to the needy. Maybe you could hit a dollar store and purchase ten hats, donating them to a homeless shelter in the cold winter months of North America. Perhaps you want to volunteer to drive meals for shut-ins, taking bags of food to those who desperately need it. Backpacks of Love are groups nationally in the USA that prepared bags of food for the needy to have over the weekend. There is a bag out there just waiting for your 2015 bright idea, your epiphany of good health and happiness!