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?