Sunday, December 28, 2008

History as a Companion

It's 8 a.m. and I woke up from a night of vivid, interesting, and moderately disturbing dreams. Between all the childhood memories that come up for me during the holidays and the operetta my subconscious performed in my dreams last night, I have a really powerful mental picture in my head this morning.

Obviously we all have our own personal histories. Our own baggage, you might say - although I tend to think that my history is much more active than an inanimate object. For me, it's as if my personal history is a person standing right there with me, who sometimes takes my shoulders and points me in a particular direction. Maybe even shoves me towards that direction.

I've tried all kinds of coping mechanisms throughout my life regarding my history. I've tried to run away from my history (but there's no way I can ever be faster than it). I've tried to ignore it and pretend it's not there (but then it's even easier for history to push me in a certain direction, because I'm not paying attention). I've even tried to turn around, look history straight in the face and deconstruct it intellectually (although it wasn't a wasted effort, the intellectual deconstruction didn't accomplish what I'd hoped - which was to make my history disappear).

Finally, this morning, I have an image of what I need to do and the answer seems pretty obvious to me now. History is with me - no matter what. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. If I'm willing to simply acknowledge my companion, but not let myself get pushed around by history, then life will be so much better. Sometimes history pushes me in a good direction. (The reason I'm out to save the world is due, in large part, to my history.) Sometimes history pushes me in a direction that is pretty bad for me.

But my history is a part of who I am and I won't pretend it's not there anymore. I'm going to listen, consider, and then decide what I'm going to do. If I feel those historical hands on my shoulders, pushing me in a certain direction, I'll reach up and lift the hands off my shoulders so that I can think more clearly. I might end up going in the direction history pushes, but I might not.

You know, I got my B.A. in history (and minored in philosophy). So it's about time I figured out how to deal with it.

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