Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Hello little brother!

I'm sure you've struggled as I have in finding relevance in school to your own personal world. A lot of the academic is boring and dry, and with the exciting and fast pace of the digital world we now live in, it's easy to think of such things as irrelevant to our lives. History in particular is easy to discount as irrelevant- who cares about what happened so long ago, when our times are so different from then anyways? It's easy to forget how we have all this technology in the first place.

You see, our times are not so different from the ones that preceded ours. People may have changed in the ways they talk to each other, what they say, and how smart they think they are, but they are all still people, and the things that we have learned in the past are still relevant to the things we do now. Especially when those lessons form the forgotten underpinnings of our moral and philosophical fabric.

Why do you think people today are so individualistic? Why do your choices matter, and what right do you have to disagree with your betters? And how would you respond if your rights and freedoms, as you understand them, came under attack?

You live in a time when those rights can be reduced or eliminated like never before. With the growth of our collective technological prowess, we need more than ever the capacity to defend the things we hold dear. And yet, if we don't understand where these ideas come from, and why they are valid, how can we disagree when someone tries to persuade us otherwise?

This is why history is important, and specifically the Renaissance and Enlightenment times. You need to learn about John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, and understand why you agree more with one than the other. When the time comes to fight the Leviathan, it will be much easier if you understood how it came to be in the first place, and why the people who created it did so.

What makes science valid? What makes reason valid? How can you justify having faith, or holding to beliefs that science has yet to verify? These are all questions without clear answers, and if we forget the work spent thinking about them by the giants of the past, we can easily fall prey to ideologies they could have saved us from. We can't afford to forget them.

Nor should we want to. Why are academic topics, and history specifically, so boring? Mainly because we are told they are. Try reading the poetry of Petrarch, or the astonishing insights given be Pascal, and tell me they aren't interesting. As I have already said, I myself have been as guilty as anyone of avoiding the study of the past, but as I've actually read the words of the great thinkers we rely so much on (without even realizing it), I've been both entertained and enlightened in surprising ways.

So, don't think of history as irrelevant, or even boring. There is so much to learn, and so much to understand of the things we think we've already learned.

Alec Parkinson

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