|HBLL Family History Library (inside) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
More than a few people I've known have indicated that they'd rather forget their pasts. When broached on the subject these people might just casually slough it off or even outright reject the notion that anyone might need to know about their personal history.
Let bygones be bygones, leave sleeping dogs lie, or let's forget about the past are sentiments that many people have expressed while so many of us want to know what happened in days gone by. Why this disconnect and negativity about personal and family history? Or even history in general?
I can recall a time when I would have declared history to be one of my least favorite subjects in school. And yet I always enjoyed reading books about historical times or seeing movies about events that happened in the past. A favorite topic that I badgered my parents to tell me about was when they were kids or even things I had done that I had forgotten. Somewhere along the line I realized that what I was so interested in all had to do with the past and history. From that point of realization I no longer considered history to be my least favorite subject, but one of my great loves.
Oh sure, the recall of dates, names, and places could be a bit tedious when tested on them, but these are all details that help to put the stories into proper perspective. When I think back on my own past I try to accurately put dates on significant events and fill my cast of characters with the actual people with their names. The places and people of my past tell my story bringing it to a vivid reality.
A playbook or record of some sort of all of the people who contributed to a life story is probably a good thing to have for anyone who might be considering writing a memoir or life history. Any epic story needs a cast of players and those characters need faces, personalities, and histories of their own. Likewise a graphic timeline is a vital tool for visualizing the sequence of events in connection to other life events. Then let us not forget the importance of geography when a story is related. We may know the setting of our own story, but many others might not.
Why is it important to remember the past and tell others about it? For one thing it can be interesting. Fiction after all is an imaginary history and if that is interesting to a good many people, then how much more interesting a well told true life story should be. Also we learn from the stories of others--the successes and triumphs as well as the failures and tragedies. We can match or model our lives against those who came before; we can avoid the mistakes they made or emulate what they did in order to find ways to make ourselves better.
I cannot think of any good reason to forget the past. After all the past is a part of who we are individually as well as who we are as a society. History can answer many questions about what it is to be human. The past can reveal some inkling as to where we are going.
Do you like to think about your own past and that of your family lineage? Do you think that history is a relevant subject to be taught in school? What do you think are the most important things that the past can teach us?