The Haunt of History

History is a tricky thing. We’re supposed to recall and remember what happened in the past so we can learn from it. In our individual lives, history is a valued tutor, teaching us in a rear view mirror how to do better in the future.

Learning from history can take many forms. My father used to tell me, “Learn from the mistakes of others because you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.” That’s good advice, although there are also good things in our past we can learn from. For example, I learned long ago that I like chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve done my best to repeat that habit as often as possible.

Of course, we tend to forget what happened before, whether it was minutes ago—how often have you touched a hot plate in a restaurant right after the server warned you of its searing heat—or years ago. I don’t know why we forget important information, except that we believe we’re smarter than people who made mistakes in the past. 

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