Growing up I always dreaded history class. I found it boring and struggled to understand its purpose. To me, it felt like a waste of time and energy to study the past. The lessons seemed unnecessary and useless. Perhaps I was just young and uninterested, or maybe I already felt the desire to leave the past in the past and move forward. I never really understood how history helps us progress, until now.
There’s been a lot of talk and connections lately to how we can draw on history for reform. The lessons we’re learning in the bigger picture got me wondering how else our past can motivate improvement. History might seem far away or a challenge to connect with, but it is also a roadmap and a diary to what works moving forward. We can find comfort in the stories before our time. Remembering the last time we thought we were stuck, but came out of the darkness. Draw similar conclusions to carry with us on these repeated issues.
Just as big picture ideas in time can be revisited to spark inspiration, so can personal experiences. While some people believe a complete lack of attachment is the key to a free life, I would argue we need to maintain some sort of connection to our past. Remain realistic about where our control lies and set boundaries when perceiving which lessons to carry forward.
Living in the moment, unfazed by the world around us, is a fantasy. Sure, a practice that allows relief at times. But not a technique we can rely on without addressing our past and doing the work around it.
While revisiting past experiences can be used as a tool for guidance and understanding, it is also a dangerous place to linger. I think of visiting these memories in a room. Collecting what applies. Choosing only what I absolutely need and closing the door. Unless investigation leads me back to that room, I leave the door closed. Separated from my existence. Some memories trigger trauma. Rooms we don’t necessarily want to visit. However, we have power over our stay. To listen and see these memories with open eyes looking forward. Like a peek in the rear view mirror. Just enough information to stay safe. Enough of a glimpse to be excited about the next destination.
So while looking back in time can be challenging, upsetting or feel like a burden, it seems to be a vital part of reformation. Necessary knowledge in finding new direction. Groups of people or individuals alone get to explore this knowledge like a puzzle. Collecting pieces and placing them where they fit. Because the puzzle doesn’t progress without all the pieces before. And some of those pieces are locked away in those memory rooms we didn’t think we needed.