Is history really that important?
In answering this query for an online assignment back in college, I decided to play Devil’s Advocate. The teacher clearly wanted everyone to affirm that history was vital; it was a history course, after all. And, like little ducks in a line, all the students did.
If there is one thing I cannot consistently stand, it is following after all the little ducks.
No, I argued, history is not important. We don’t actually need it.
- No one learns from the past. The proof is in the repeated mistakes.
- Conditioned to luxury and entitlement, we behave as Huxley predicted and always seek for what is new.
- History is written by the victors or their fans, and is redacted and altered by current social climates. 1984 (George Orwell) proves that.
Though I did not make the following points, I could reasonably add two more for our modern times:
- We have a glut of information and lack time for the general public to ingest it. So, instead, most people only follow useless, instantaneous fluff.
- Technology has the capacity to 3-D print what we need, thus eliminating paltry ideas like stonemason or architect skills.
The online repartée with my professor ended unfavorably, by the way. He acknowledged all comments in a general, summarizing paragraph at the end of the week. He specifically mentioned “one student” who had argued this and that against his statement, said I’d referenced 1984 erroneously because it undermined my main point (it didn’t), and suggested I ought not to argue too far out lest I “find the branch cut off behind (me).”
I’m still sore that I had no way to post a counterargument.
That aside, I do not believe that history is not important nor that we ought not to learn it. Instead, I lament that most people do not respect history. Most do not seem to know its significance or beauty or work …until it is removed. Stolen. Ripped away. Burned.
This morning I had intended to write a different post. I thought to list my hectic schedule, thereby garnering a few commiserating comments and explaining my abysmal online presence. Instead, in catching up (somewhat) on blogs I follow, I read a very-well written piece about the recent Notre Dame catastrophe. The Feathered Rose, in “To human ingenuity,” described “both the stillness and the motion in (her) thinking” as she contemplated her feelings about history.
A friend of hers suggested that Our Lady will be rebuilt and will continue on as she has. Other buildings of historical significance have undergone changes and rebuilds, right?
“My friend, speaking through the words of Douglas Adams, is correct that, once rebuilt, the Cathedral will continue to serve its purpose. Architects, historians, engineers, builders – these people will no doubt admirably restore the idea, intention, design, and essence of the building. Tourists will continue to flock there. The faithful will continue to pray…”
So, really, what’s the big deal? Why was the horror of destruction not sated by the consolation of repair? Fortunately, she finds and gives us an answer:
“Human ingenuity isn’t only about intangible progress. It’s also about the evidence of our past.”
That is one sentence stolen -ripped, burned- from paragraphs she wrote of beautiful reminisces of history. Reminders of what the past means and why we need it. Pasting any more of her post would require at least half a page, but I highly encourage everyone to read it.
I love the voice she gave to my own unrest. I love the poetry of her memories.
If given a chance to state my enduring and authentic hope for history today, I would counter-argue my previously-stated points:
- We all learn from the past, though we may take a few revisits to retain what it taught.
- The flashy and new appeal to the young and inexperienced. Once they run out of money or solid chairs to sit upon, they will change to old and reliable.
- History may be written less-accurately, but all information must be taken with a pinch of salt. Assume bias, watch for author’s flavor and preference, and remember your own colored glasses.
- The general population will always grab at fluff; the important and durable information will endure.
- A handmade work is impressive and appreciated, and even a computer needs to be ‘taught’ the skills.
Why do we walk the halls of the past? Sometimes it is merely to feel the echoing footsteps of the people who came before. Wouldn’t you wish for the same, of those who will come after?
How has the destruction of Notre Dame touched you? Is the past important enough to retain what we may for the future?
Here is what I wrote last week. I intend to take the remainder of the week in stride, as I really am quite busy:
Wednesday, April 10: Spent a happy reminiscence discussing children’s picture books with “Picture Books Are Always in Season.”
Friday, April 12: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Everyone who entered!
Saturday, April 13: Announced the 22nd Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is an acrostic of the person you detest. PLEASE ENTER!
Slipped in a tongue-in-cheek poem titled, “(Real) Life Advice.”
Monday, April 15: A book quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes. I am slowly, very slowly getting through this one.
Tuesday, April 16: “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety.”
Also, posted, “Mental Illness Really Sucks” over at JES’ site.
Wednesday, April 17: Today.
I’ve a part-time job writing stuff for Kids Are the Worst‘s blog now; and publish scintillating works like “10 Actually Easy Easter Crafts for Kids.” I intend to keep things real and funny over there.
Speaking of writing jobs, I see that one of my vacuum reviews is online and it’s not even the re-write DumbFace demanded. Funny world.