Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Past Informing the Present

As an amateur historian, I find the study of the past fascinating. But the question - how do we let the past inform the present is an incredibly difficult one. I've found it has to be a balance. We have to be aware of the past to shape our understanding and current decisions. But we can't assume that the past will always predict (without error)what may happen in the future.

I've found this to be a sticking point both for interpersonal relationships and larger
political/international issues or conflicts. An adult can't act solely in a vacuum - they have to be concerned with safety. This includes personal safety. On the other hand, a person can assume there will be pitfalls at every turn - when there may not be. Or that some sort of pre-emptive strike/confrontation is necessary - when it may not be needed.

If we assume no one will ever change, and no situations will ever be bettered - what hope is there? Where does that leave everyone? There are all sorts of possibilities to life, each day. From technology to cures for diseases. New understandings and perspective. I talk a little about my take on victimhood here.

I'm not advocating unreasonable hope here. I'm not even advocating a person should turn the other cheek seven by seventy times. There are all sorts of factors that come into play in every situation - from what a new president will really be able to do to conflicts in the middle east to be-friending someone on a social networking site.

I'm also not suggesting that there will always be miracles - that things will solve
themselves without work either. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "la, la, la - I don't see you" isn't always going to work (in fact, it probably won't work. I've tried).

What I'm saying is, humans take risks, each day. Nothing is sure - except change, death and taxes. Everything else is fluid. Life is not simple - I've learned that much in my short time on earth. These issues are not simple. If they were simple - things would actually be pretty boring. There always seems to be a "yes, but..." to many statements.

I just have faith and hope that things will end up how they are supposed to end up.
I do the best I can every day. I try to improve situations that can be bettered - with regard to my own health and safety (and respecting other people's boundaries). This year, I'm going to try and take risks, each day. The risk may just be a small step of recycling my diet coke cans - but I'll try to take it just the same.

But I'm also realistic - many situations don't change, many people don't change - and human nature will probably remain the same - throughout my lifetime.

So - how have things changed over time for you? Has your understanding of things changed? Are there things with simpler solutions than you thought? Where do you think the past should stand in predicting yours (or others or geopolitical) behavior?

3 comments:

Kathryn said...

When I was younger, my most frequent mistakes were thinking that THIS time, things would be different... I know I have tried this before, and it didn't work, but really, one day it had to. Something has definitely shifted because now, i find my most frequent mistakes are thinking that I know what's going to happen, especially what the people in my life are going to do. I get stuck in thinking that, although I'm growing and changing, they're the same as they always were. Granted, there are some things that are predictable (My cousin who has not been on time for 20 years can be counted upon to be late), but that list is actually fairly small.

Rebecca said...

I think Kathryn really hit on something - I know I've been guilty, for many, many years, of thinking that somehow things will change THIS time. Without me changing. The only thing we can change is ourselves. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I'm really pessimistic and I don't even think we can change ourselves. But I am optimistic that I am wrong about that!

As for the past...

I don't know. That's an interesting question. How should it stand when predicting behavior...hm...

Well, I guess what I think is: hope for the best, plan for the worst. If, for example, you have a friend who is SUPER flaky and cancels on you like %60 of the time, don't get your hopes up when you make plans, and don't count on her in times of need. But enjoy being with her when she does show up!

(not that I have a friend like that or anything...)

Aerin said...

Thanks Kathryn. It's figuring out that line, like you mention with your cousin. What it is about people that may change, and what will probably not change (being on time).

Thanks Rebecca. I completely agree with hope for the best - I am definitely working on adjusting my expectations though as well. As in, not having as many. So if someone shows up on time, that's great - otherwise I let it go...does that make sense? I used to dwell on that stuff and let it bring me down - when there is so much out of our control...