history is not bunk

It was the first day of grade five. My history teacher wrote on the black-board in big, bold letters,

HISTORY IS BUNK.

Here is the source of the quote.

Say, what do I care about Napoleon? What do we care about what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across and I don’t care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.

Henry Ford, 1916 interview with Charles N. Wheeler for the Chicago Tribune

My teacher went on to explain that history is not only NOT bunk, it’s vital to understanding the present. It is also a guide for discerning right and just action for the future.

Fast forward a few years, and I was choosing History as my major study. Liberal Arts was often looked down upon as “lesser than” the more empirical scientific studies . It was Artsy Fartsy. A self -indulgent pursuit of knowledge with no practical use unless you became a teacher.

I beg to differ.

In a recent conversation with our younger son, he bemoaned the way history was taught when he was in school; focused on memorization and regurgitation of names, places and dates. It was not only boring, he said, it was indoctrination. Agendas wrapped up in seemingly indisputable facts. It would have been more valuable if the focus was less on details and more on the meaning of past events.

Our conversation then moved on to philosophy and the importance of logic. We agreed that rational, critical thinking should be taught at an early age. How do you judge a source? How do you test an argument? How do you spot the fallacies in a heated discourse? Logic should be a compulsory course in High Schools and Universities, regardless of your area of studies.

The Enlightenment era glorified human reason and the pursuit of knowledge. Today, belligerent voices fill the airwaves. Academics and intellectuals are mocked as elites. Rational dialogue is increasingly unattainable. And, the blatant ignorance of history is not only sad. It’s terrifying.

The lessons of two World Wars followed by the Cold War years are forgotten. Nationalism is on the rise, threatening to destroy the ongoing work of international cooperation and unity in Europe and across the Atlantic.

White supremacy and racial intolerance is coming out of the shadows. Hatred gains courage when like-minded leaders support it, and good people remain silent.

An increasingly mad, unhinged, egomaniacal president rallies crowds of blind followers, feeding them lie after lie. Repeat the lies often enough and loudly enough, and they will be accepted as facts. Individual thought and critical thinking isn’t needed when the great leader is your sole source of truth. George Orwell’s dystopian “1984” is unfolding before our eyes.

Winnipeg is home to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The purpose of the museum is to “enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”. Historical displays of past atrocities are a sombre reminder of humankind’s capacity for evil. As you begin your journey from the roots of the museum, the architecture wraps you in darkness. Slowly you move toward the light at the top of the museum, the Tower of Hope. There you find a display of human rights work around the world.

I follow the Auschwitz Memorial on Twitter (@AuschwitzMuseum). It’s a difficult follow. They regularly post photographs and short biographies of men, women and children who were killed in the death camp. One person wrote that he forces himself to stop scrolling, look deeply at the photo and say the name out loud. It is a simple way to remember.

Lest We Forget.

Never Again.

christmas k.i.s.s.

Each year, the same resolution.

This year we’re going to keep Christmas simple!

Each year, a slow descent into the madness of the season. Advent stillness and pondering is pushed aside for frantic shopping, preparations, parties, and family squabbles over where everyone must spend Christmas Day…or it won’t be Merry.

Here in Canada, we’ve succumbed to Black Friday craziness even though we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. On the one hand, we don’t have to wait for our traditional Boxing Day sales to get great deals. On the other hand, we’re bombarded with flyers and online announcements flogging prices too low to ignore. And, we’re off. Credit cards in hand.

I struggled with Christmas when our own five children were young. We lived in a small, rural town with few stores and no online shopping. The marathon trip to the city to get presents stressed me. Hoping that each child was happy on Christmas morning stressed me more.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the gift giving was over. Took a big breath. And began work on a turkey dinner for twenty plus.

Each year, during my annual Christmas melt-down, hubby offered this advice. “Christmas doesn’t have to be a big production”. (I’m still married to the man.)

Our children’s families are growing. This is the advice we’re giving them.

KEEP IT SIMPLE SWEETIES!

Do your own thing on Christmas day. Enjoy the wee ones. Start your own traditions. RELAX!

Christmas is more than one day. We have the whole Christmas season to get together and have raucous fun – and we will. Our focus will be on the gathering, not the feasts. The playing not the work. The joy not the stress.

The presence, not the presents.

old year…still here

A year has gone by. A year without blogging. A year of self-imposed guilt. A year of wondering whether to continue or not.

It’s been a busy year. The three new grand-babies have all turned one. Two more grand-kiddies have started their school adventures. Routines and schedules define days, weeks and months. Hubby and I help as much as we can, while looking on in amazement. How do parents do it all? How did we do it?

A new writing adventure came my way. I wrote a screenplay this year. Five drafts to date. It’s been a steep learning curve for me, but a surprisingly enjoyable one. Writing fiction lets you “play God” with plots and characters. (I’m a little worried about how much I’m enjoying this power!) I treasure the fleeting moments when I’m “in the zone”. Time stands still and the perfect dialogue and action flow effortlessly. As with all writing, the moments are rare. More common are the hours/days spent staring at a blank screen, convinced that you’ll never write another word again. I can’t say much more about the project at the moment, but stay tuned! 🙂

And what about this blog? The news of the day continues to infuriate and depress me. Church news is no better. I shake my head at the utter stupidity, lack of courage and downright immorality of many of our leaders in both the church and the world. I have ranted and raged on this blog and it’s exhausted me. I needed a break. It doesn’t mean the anger has subsided or will never pour out on these pages again. But, I’m making no resolutions, except to write.

So, the blog will continue. It has a new, simple design, which I like very much.

New and simple.