For far too many people, the opportunities to spend any significant amount of time investigating the lessons of our past become nearly non-existent after we turn in our final History Class exam and end our academic career. The demands of day-to-day life come to the forefront and balancing our present responsibilities with plans for the future dominates most everyone’s minds. However, learning should never truly end. Reading and ruminating on history both sharpens analytical skills and broadens perspectives. History is, simply put, inescapable. Although its influence is at times less than immediately visible, it is always undeniable. Therein lies the true key to appreciating and loving history. History is about more than just what happened in the past – it is about the legacies of the past in our present.
Every single person is a testament to living history. Communities cherish and maintain cultural traditions, practices, and languages that are all inherited. Even our modern technology, which can feel like transforms instantaneously, is actually just an example of what can happen when people today work furiously to build upon the work of yesterday. The legacy of history is rooted as deeply and personally as within our DNA, which is itself just an inherited genetic template that has evolved over the entire length of our species’ past. Really investigating the past can therefore shed an incredible amount of light into life today, whether that be a smaller detail like how a word was born to larger questions like the nature of the human condition.
Something very important to remember when studying the past is a concept historians call “rooting” people in time. What does that mean or why does it matter? Feeling rooted in time means you understand your place in the much grander scale of things. It is important to grasp that none of us and none of this world just burst forth from a vacuum of any sort. We are all the culmination of an impossibly long sequence of events. Having a full historical context improves your ability to empathize with how complex life can be and why it is important to learn as much you can. History, and knowing our place in it, allows us to build and change the very foundation of our identity as individuals and as societies.
Make time to read about the past. There is no shortage of excellently researched and excitedly detailed literature that can cover enormous swaths of our known histories. If reading does not fit into your lifestyle or suit your interests, try listening to podcasts or watching documentaries about history. Before you know it, you will find that the way in which you previously saw the world has changed for the better and your former perspective is, in its own right, a part of your personal history too.