History, Life, Personal

Keeping the Past in the Future

There are many approaches to dealing with the past. Most would probably agree with the old adage, “What’s done is done.” Why dwell on the past? Others agree with philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In other words, learn from your mistakes.

I love when students ask me how they will ever use history in life. Some teachers may despise that question, but it gives me the chance to hopefully open their eyes to the bigger issue. Is our life really going to be improved by filling our minds with trivial facts about the Roman Empire or the Industrial Revolution? Most often it will not. So why study the past?

Santayana was on to something when he realized that men seem to make the same mistakes over and over and over. Looking at world history as a whole seems to resemble a carnival merry-go-round due to the number of times the same attempts/outcomes occur. Can nothing be learned from that?

Beyond that, however, we have our own personal story that we can view to be very similar. We struggle to kick that habit of doing the same wrong thing over and over.

Is it enough to dwell on the past? Absolutely not. We need to take the time, however, to understand the past to be sure that our future is better. The moment we forget what took place is like going back to the beginning and struggling all over again.

Learn from the past so that we can start making a better future today.

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