History Through a Modern Lens

A patient said to me the other day, “you cannot view history through a modern lens.” I thought a lot about this. She vocalized something in a way the left my mind unresolved. To add to her idea, you can, but you must remember that you have the benefit of the lessons learned in this moment. Today’s understanding was preceded by yesterday’s mistakes.

Our world changes so fast. All of our creations, whether manufactured things, social constructs, technological advances, scientific understanding, comes with a polarity. Even that which we think of as virtue has an underbelly that biases our perceptions. These blind spots can lead to over-identification with ideas that rigidly prevent objective analysis.

There is no unifying theory through which all things will suddenly come together and bring the whole world to a single and perfect way to be and exist. Change is the constant. And with each iteration comes the responsibility to bring the best of humanity, our service and connectedness to one another. This must be at the forefront of our intention. And the ideas we share are trials that must always be re-evaluated and tested.

The languishing described by Adam Grant that many experience in the face of revolutionary times is real. It is not quite depression, but a sense of “joylessness and aimlessness.” Global warming, economic turmoil, government ineptitude, and pandemic disease is not something we experience in concert with one another, but rather, it is an individual and lonely experience. Our place in the world seems tenuous. And with that we question the institutions that brought us to this time and place.

Take the time to see the many perspectives that shape this world. In doing so, it is my hope that we will find a fair and balanced way of measuring our past, our present, and our future.

There is a prayer I have practiced in the past. A meditation. “I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” The Ho’oponopono. While I am not an expert in spiritual practice, my understanding of this meditation is that it is a reconciliation with the past. A reckoning that our ancestors made mistakes, we make mistakes, but we exist on the foundation of our past. Only through that foundation can we, in this moment, grow and learn. The prayer is said, but it is also heard. It is bidirectional. We are receiving the remorse of our forebears. But we are also asking forgiveness for failing to live up to the world we inherited from their sacrifices.

Our history has many heroes that unearthed the insidious disorder of the past and created the roads and structures of our present inheritance. Mistakes were made. Evils transgressed. We cannot imagine that the malignancies eliminate the virtue of historical times. Although there are holes in the foundation by which we currently exist, we must not tear down everything in order to bridge the errors.

In my practice of gratitude, acceptance is gained. There is recognition that we cannot control the outcomes, but we can create an intention and live in that through action.

Our goodness is not measured by an inability to do bad things. It is the recognition that you can and do not. “We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil.” (Jung 1977)

Love yourself and recognize that you are an amalgamation of all that has been and the base of what will be when you are long gone. We are all capable of infinite evil, but we can choose to be good. Viewing the past with the benefit of the lessons learned should not have us assuming we are incapable of the same grave errors.

More importantly, we can choose to do good. In this world of constant stimulation, pulling and pushing your mind to its preconceived biases and further into the rabbit holes, resist. Make the space between the thoughts. Remember that we are what we were, and we have the benefit of time and space to evaluate the past. The practice of doing so in the now may allow you to see your place in this world – past, present, and future, differently.

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