Saturday, February 04, 2012

Choosing Past and Future

Francisco Goya
"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"
Etching, aquatint, drypoint, and burin
"It is the reviving wine of history that defends the future against the past."

- Lewis Lapham, "Democracy 101"
(Harper's Magazine, April 2011)
As high school students, we're often told that history repeats itself, the implication being that a sound education in history will allow us to avoid repeating past mistakes. I think of this as the "Groundhog Day" school of thought. It's true, despite the fact that most people (and states) tend to trip over the same stumbling blocks time and again.

Still, I prefer Lapham's formulation above because his statement implies that the study of history provides us with the necessary confidence to continue and to hope, to view our progress as two steps forward for one step back. Moreover, it's important for us to choose the bottle of wine that we drink from. As President Obama articulated in his brilliant inaugural address,
"the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation."
May we choose wisely, and drink deep.

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