It Is All Ancient History

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I have mixed feelings when it comes to history. They (who “they” are I cannot specify) say that, as you get older, you become more interested in history. I must not have reached that age yet. My main issues against history are that a) we seem to obsess over it when there is nothing that can be done to correct it – it happened; b) we have yet to learn from it even though we obsess over it; and c) it is served to us through the lens or filter in which we choose to present it. (And when it comes to ancient history, we attach truisms to it when we only understand it in the context of our present day.)

I don’t mean to imply that I am completely dismissive of history. I do enjoy learning about different places and their pasts. Take for example the library in its current location: the building in which we are housed (sans expansions) used to be the bus station. It makes sense that the bus station energy would call to the library, as we are also an institution of comings-and-goings, new adventures, collective stories and growing community. I am also of the opinion that we should be using the wisdom of the past to guide our present. I find that, at times, we seem to believe that how things were once done should apply to the forever, but that completely disregards the undeniable truth that the only constant is change and dismisses the knowledge of the present we have gained over time.

I am a believer that, in ways, the past lives with us. Events from our personal history, our collective history, and our inherited history make up a bit of how we define that which we call out “self” - that I believe to be true. Leo Buscaglia (aka ‘Dr. Love’) once said, “Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?” I think that is one of my biggest beefs with history, that in our death grip of it, we are preventing ourselves from evolving and repeating patterns that did not and will not work no matter the time and place. We complacently allow it to break us.

Are we hard-wired to repeat patterns of self-destruction? As an animal, I often look toward other species to observe their ingrained patterns of survival and I have yet to find another animal or organism that has not altered historic patterns when confronted with change. I am not specialized in such a field of study, so I am sure that I am unaware of others animals that cling to the past in their present. I also know, intimately, how the past can provide comfort as it is familiar, but I also know, intimately, how that clinging to that same past handicaps us from living in the now and promises endless suffering in our future.

I suppose what is boils down to is fear. Fear of change; fear of the rupture of personal comfort; fear of pain; fear of the unknown; fear of lack of control; fear of chaos; and fear of ourselves. I am very guilty of being a person who worries about the future. On occasion, I will find myself causing my own suffering due to social conditioning on who, where and what I ought to be at my age. I also find myself suffering from the suffering of others, who are made miserable from systems, beliefs and institutions that have refused to embrace the forward flow of time and restrict themselves to “how it was done in the past”, resulting in the long seep of rot into the present and future.

There is much wisdom to be gleaned from human history and the history of other species. I suppose I would just find promise should we actually be able apply what it has taught us, while being detached from it and not allowing it to define who we are right now and who we can be in the future. I am not a fortune-teller. The only thing that I know for sure is that I know nothing at all. So much of the past will remain unknown and I, personally, did not sign a contract at my birth promising me a future revolving around me. I suppose I will just carry on embracing that history is not always set in stone as we are bound to be missing some of the story. What I can do is keeping learning, listening and changing with the flow of time. One day, I may see a present that does the same.

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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