Sunday, July 24, 2011

History VI

When we last left the subject of history I mentioned that the modern mind is preoccupied more with accumulating facts rather than interpreting them. To our modern mind it is more important to know "when" and "what" happened rather than "why". More important to know what the Magna Carta was rather than what it meant. With few exceptions (like the Galileo controversy) facts are far more important than the meaning behind them.

The most obvious example of this current state is the event known as "9/11." Even the name itself gives the game away. Only the raw data can be captured by the modern mind. The attack on the U.S.A. and the hurt inflicted is our preoccupation. Lost in the shuffle is the heroism of those rescuers who risked their lives to save others. How ordinary men became heroes in a time of trial is lost due to our inability to look higher than the rubble of buildings. Even when we attempt to look up we bring ourselves down.

This state of affairs is due to the modern mind's rejection of the concept of "universal truth." Truth that transcends both culture and time. The notion that all things in the created order abide by truths that are constant. We lack the ability to see meaning behind the events in our own lives because we have rejected the notion that there is such a thing.

By extension then it should not surprise us that we fail to grasp the meaning behind events in the past. By rejecting the truth in our own lives we thus obliterate any meaning of the lives of our ancestors. History is thus reduced to trivia, no more necessary than the latest knowledge of celebrity gossip or sports statistics.

But there are still remnants of this notion that learning history is important. We pay lip service to the notion that "history repeats itself" and "those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it." Yet both sayings imply that there is a transcendent truth imbedded in history. Truths that can be learned that apply outside of both culture and time.

It is this contradiction that we present to our children. We claim that history has something to teach us yet we do not live our lives as if truth exists. They see our hypocrisy and reject our knowledge. After all, if our beliefs are transitory and malleable, why shouldn't their beliefs be? And that includes our quaint notions that history is important.

But for those who believe that there is such a thing as universal truth history poses a problem as well. And that we will discuss next.

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