“It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.”Mark Twain
Do we value the power of history? Not dusty old textbooks, and random facts about the past. No, I mean do we appreciate the power of what history can do for us today, and how it can make us better tomorrow. Are we using history to make history, or are we just preparing ourselves for Jeopardy tryouts?
The most wonderful thing about acknowledging history, is what relevance it can have on our lives today. What is history? It is easy to understand, its simply “the study of past events.” That could mean the past events of a person, place, thing, or even an interaction or conflict.
You probably don’t remember burning yourself when you were a child, but you likely did at one point or another. Maybe you turned on the water too hot while washing your hands? Regardless of the event, a history, a memory was created in your brain somewhere. I’m no brain surgeon, so I don’t know where exactly, and guess what? That detail is of no importance because even a baseline understanding of “past” events is enough to alter our future decisions.
This may seem an unimportant detail. However, there is a critical point I want to make. It does not take a Ph.D. level understanding for it to help us make better decisions in the future. All we have to do is value the macro lesson found in the record, and that alone can help make us be better decision-makers. This feels really elementary because nearly everyone understands this. It’s our human nature to operate this way.
We’ve all seen how even a toddler can take past situations, interactions, events, traumas, history, and use those memories to make more sound decisions in the present or the future. Are we doing the same as adults?
Some of us do, but certainly not all of the time. We make all types of decisions based on our positive or negative perceptions of past events, history. This internal history helps us to decide who to date, what to eat, where we shop, travel, basically every decision that we make. They are all based on our historical perception of events. The goal in all of this analysis is to make less bad decisions. Some require less interpretation than others, or so it would seem.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”George Santayana
The Civil War, for example. It takes no interpretation from a sain person to know the Civil War was terrible. Written history can get a little more tricky than our internal memories, but a macro understanding usually does the trick. Remember, this only works for the sain. Sociopathic tendencies seem to delete this seemingly innate human function. Hmmm, sociopathic behavior? Good thing we don’t have anybody in power acting that way. That could really screw up our ability to make sound decisions.
The question that I want to ask, now that we have finally arrived, is this. Are we using history to make history? I used the Civil War as an example because it has been in the news this week. How little understanding of history does it take to know, civil war is not a road that we can revisit as a country?
But this is so much larger than that. We have more than enough historical examples to help us make better decisions on just about everything. If even a child’s brain is more or less hard-wired to work this way, why aren’t we as adults, as institutions, as a country?
Picking the wrong partners because you ignore your past is one thing. Continually burning yourself every time you wash your hands seems just odd. Haven’t you learned yet? Threating Civil War is something else entirely. Ignoring history is not only dangerous, but it’s also foolish, idiotic even. History is there to make us better decision-makers. What are we if we completely ignore the information that can make our future better? Better than the past, better than our history.
“History repeats itself, the first as tragedy, then as farce.”Karl Marx
They say history is doomed to repeat itself. That is a guarantee if no one pays attention to what has happened in the past, how we got there, how we got out, how we could have avoided it.
At the current moment, it truly feels like history is happening to us. That is all wrong. We are supposed to make history. We are supposed to build a future because of our understanding of the past.
How dare us to repeat the lessons that so many have sacrificed for. The lessons that so many have died for.
We are to be better than our history. Or are we only as foolish as out past?