Sunday, February 14, 2016
Just as there is a specific number of years placed on an item before it is referred to as an antique, is there, or should there be, a specific period of time pass before we use the word history? Or, is anything past this current moment fair game?
As of late, I’ve had a well-worn quote circling my thoughts: “Those who cannot remember or do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t think it’s a mystery why it’s currently floating without tether in my head. Every major election year we hear it or think about it in some fashion.
And then, this past week a really good Ray Bradbury quote began circulating on Facebook that I’ve since printed and taped to my office wall. It goes: “The problem in our country isn’t with books being banned, but with people no longer reading. You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Those two quotes began doing a harmonious dance between my ears. But, my thoughts are going far beyond politics to our present state of cultural change and how rapidly it’s doing so. It has become a way of life that moves so quickly for many that taking time to read a book simply does not happen often and even that number seems to be shrinking. I’m not sure many folks under forty (let’s say) even read newspapers any longer, online or in hand. Even affording the time to read articles takes too long.
It seems we are electronically spoon-fed everything we know and come to develop opinions in sound bites, snippets, and cherry-picked Bible verses. Unfortunately, those totally inadequate pieces of information, which are sometimes no more than slogans, become not simply opinions but hard facts to many.
We only need to look at the tech savvy generation to realize that most everyone has access to what is happening globally and know it instantly but, just as quickly, set information aside and move on to the next tantalizing tidbit of information after mere minutes, maybe seconds, later. So, flooding the consciousness with dibs and dabs of information that history, to them, becomes fifteen minutes ago. I’m really beginning to believe that we, all of us, are taking this living-in-the-moment thing too far. Taking time for reflection (a bit farther back than fifteen minutes) is more than simply healthy for a way of life, but vitally necessary to its survival.
It would behoove us all greatly to know and understand all the major cultures that preceded this current one. We should want, and definitely need, to know how empires, kingdoms, and entire civilizations rose and fell—more importantly, why? And, please believe me, I’m not pointing an accusatory finger at anyone more than at myself. It’s a shared responsibility.
If we cannot know, as intimately as possible, the origins and demise of Sumer, Egypt, Rome, Aztecs, Olmecs, Incas—where they came from, what they believed, how they lived, and why they went away—we are destined to travel the same path. And from what I’m seeing, thanks to the speed of global communication and technology, we are on that path at an accelerated speed. Do you really want power hungry people and ideologues—politicians and religious leaders—dictate what you believe? I thought not. Me neither.