One Basic Belief And Two Different Approaches

The other day I attended an historical lecture by an historical scholar. I won’t specify more than that. Suffice to say, it was about a particular event in American history that is among my most fundamental interests. The historian who gave the lecture is highly respected in academic circles; he is a history professor and published author. I really enjoyed the lecture until it came to one point in the question-and-answer segment that followed the lecture.

Most people in the audience of 75 were older and retired. They liked history more than your average person, hence their attendance at the lecture. One woman asked the history professor what lessons he thought his lecture (and its topic) held for us today, how we might use what he said to shape our decisions.

I leaned forward to make sure I heard his answer. This was a question right down my alley. How would the history professor reply?

Horribly, as it turned out, at least from my perspective.

The history professor thought for a moment and said that it’s just too dangerous to lift something out of another time and place and try to use it in our current world.

Boo, I say, boo! Hiss! Hiss and boo!

Here’s my take: for¬†goodness sake, why else would we even bother to know or learn anything about history if it can’t be applied to our own lives?! Is it because we simply are dying to know what happened in the past that has absolutely zero application to how we live today and hope to live tomorrow? Is that the right motivation?

Since it has no use, why remember anything? Memory viewed thus becomes the gall bladder or the ear lobe of the brain–it had a purpose eons ago but now it’s just some odd thing that takes up space.

You know very well my answer to this question. Yes, by all means, be careful and thoughtful and circumspect in applying the past to the present and the future. But for pete’s sake, apply it or risk falling into the same traps again and again and again. Apply it or get ready to watch your imagination dry up, your ability to think in multiple dimensions vanish before your eyes. Apply it or accept the fate of living like a moth flying into flame.

Good grief.