You’re probably wondering what is happening in the world today. It’s normal to speculate, guess and dream. Not just for the sake of philanthropic exercises, like averting war, famine and disaster, nor just for egotistical reasons, ensuring you are always right, winning money and so on… no there are many other reasons too. Some of which you may have thought of before, other perhaps not.
Some say that Nostradamus predicted the future through a detailed examination of the past. After all, they say that history repeats itself. I’d be the last to deny that, although for a good part of my life I always believed it was a clever ploy to get us young’uns to study a bit harder. Yet, when you stop to think about it, it can’t repeat itself, and when you do you realise the truth behind it.
History is not as simple an idea as you might at first think. How much is interpretation and how much is fact, how much was identified as being worthy of report and remembrance and how much left to lie in the dust, ultimately to be preserved. When I went to school, people in my country had just stopped the habit of force feeding history to the youth. We did not have to learn by heart the names of kings and queens, and perhaps from whence our disloyalty was born. Instead we were taught methodology, how to distinguish primary from secondary sources.
This is quite neat, one might say. But think about what happens as time passes. those in charge of policy change. Those who take over hark back to their youths and, in an overwhelming sensation of self-superiority, decide that the problem with today’s generation is that it has not the morals of yesteryear’s society. And they reverse the process, inclining people like me to say, history repeats itself.
But what then of those who say that those who know not their history are doomed to repeat it? Indeed it is true that more the fool, he who does not learn from the mistakes of others. And so what we see emerging is a concertina effect, shuffling through human history. Much like the caterpillar, we often rely on the back legs to hold onto the floor while those at the front wail wildly in search of some sure footing. And once they do, boy then are the rear legs in for being dragged through the tracks of their fore-bearers.
We cannot detach ourselves from the work of those who have been before us. We have to bear constantly in mind that we stand on the shoulders of giants. There is something to be learnt from our history, even if it is to avoid making the same mistakes. Yet there is always an interpretive element involved. The mistakes of old befall the wanderers of today’s world, and today’s world looks nothing like that of old. You would know this if like me you were born on the cusp of colour television. My early years are impregnated with the thought that the past was black and white, that colour was something new. Of course, it’s a childish mistake, but it underlies a more pernicious weakness, that of not having suffered the past.
We can only understand what has happened before if we listen to those who have already walked those miles in our shoes. Yet if we spend our time mindlessly buried in archives we will never see what is happening around us, let alone have the time to look at and analyse that environment with a view to identifying patterns and repetitions. For me there is some truth to déjà-vu, but I wouldn’t stop there, as I think this is just one of the few triggers too often ignored. You’ve heard that there is no such thing as coincidence.
So, we have to be careful when we interpret what happens today. I for one take extreme care when I choose whom to listen. Beneath the events that surround us there is a multitude of vested interests, just as behind those who report the news to us have so too. I listen to international civil servants tell me that what we see on the news is a drop in the ocean compared to the gory details discussed behind meeting room doors. I listen to those who broadcast the news, only to notice that there is no indication of time on the screen.
In today’s world, an international and deeply interconnected planet, I see what happens around us, but I know I don’t see it all. I struggle to find the balance between filtering the events of the day and the stories of the past. But among all the confusion and beyond the constraints of time, I know that the stories that pursue us from the past are fuelled by truth, whilst those who decide today are decidedly motivated by other factors. History then is not a way of predicting the future but a way of deciphering the truth. If there is any foundation to the concept of karma, then we can rest assured that those who cover our eyes from the truth are those who were not taught the true meaning nor content of their history and it is they who will fall victim to their ignorance.