Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Meaningful Life: Loving History

As a history teacher, it is customary at the beginning of any class to give a "Why Study History" lecture. While I am not teaching a class, I would like my children to know the reasons behind this obsession  Let me tell you why I love history and why I want to incorporate it into our family life, the pictures on the wall, the stories we tell, the way we live.

-The #1 thing I love about history, American history in particular, is the freedom it gives you. I love old things, like this old house we live in. Why? What's so great about 1930's America? In our modern day and age, I think a lot of people feel trapped. Trapped by the commercialism, the technology, the conveniences even. Trapped by what we have become, lazy and spineless in some ways, our dependence on things and shying away from helping each other in real, concrete ways. This is the escape I find in history. I don't have to subscribe to our modern way of thinking. It makes me realize that what we have shapes how we think, and so I can instead choose to live otherwise. This thought is really empowering to me. So old things draw me to this other world. A world where craftsmanship meant something and didn't come at a premium, it was standard. A world where a family sat around the fire, and not around the t.v. Where you talked to people face-to-face, and helped your neighbors because you had this real relationship. So this is something I want to teach my children. That just because you live in the 21st century doesn't mean you have to subscribe to the 21st century mindset. And history can show you a different way.

-The next kind of history I love is family history. When I was about 13 I read my grandmother's life history. I especially loved the recounting of her girlhood years and what she accomplished there. It showed me what I could do, who I could be. The great thing about family history is, you read their stories and say, "This person is related to me. I have their blood running through my veins. If they can do it, I can do it." And in many ways, because they didn't have this 21st century mindset, or the number of distractions that we have, they were probably did it even a little better than you. And as one of my favorite authors states, anything that teaches you how to be better is worth reading and learning about.

-My last reason is my own personal preference, but I just like the ways things looked, ascetically, before 1950. A little bit more detail, a little bit more charm, more to catch the eye and study. I don't have the vocabulary for this since I am definitely not an architectural historian, so I don't know how to describe it other than I like it better than the modern, run-of-the-mill way things look in our world today. Blame it on mass manufacturing, I'm not sure, but the older stuff is just more appealing to me and causes me to pause. It screams "different" in just the ways I like: here is a person who is holding on to their roots.

Why keep old things around? I feel so passionate about preserving history, and not just because I like the way it looks. Keeping an old house, or an old phone, or an old coin collection turns things from myth to fact. You don't have to wonder if it really happened, you have living proof that it did. Stories are no longer stories, they are real. And immediately you are connected to something bigger than yourself.

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