Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why History?

Well, it's a happy day here in Fort Worth and Dallas! The Texas Rangers crushed the Yankees last night, 6-1, in game 6 of the American League Championship Series. We're going to the World Series for the first time in the history of our baseball club. It's an historic event.

And it's got me thinking: why do we care about history? I mean, it's already happened. It's done. Why bother to study it? Why look backward instead of forward?

First of all, let's dispense with the platitudes. Let's not lean on Patton's advice that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. Let's see if I can come up with an original thought and put it in my own words.

You can look at my bio and page header and deduce why I care about history. It's about people, about stories, about feats of skill and sport and war and discovery that were impossible--right up until someone did them. I like history because I find stories of the past exciting, interesting, and fun.

But there are lots of other disciplines I find exciting and interesting that I'm not trying to make a living doing. Zoology, paleontology, astronomy, mechanical engineering, pottery, weaving, auto maintenance, medicine...all areas of endeavor I find fascinating, areas that impact our lives in a real way every day. But I'm not writing about those, except as their past developments affect us today.

See, history is where we come from. The stories of the past all run together, weaving through each other and overlapping to bring us the world we know today. The world we live in proceeds directly from the world of the past, just as tomorrow's world will proceed directly from the choices we make today. The "it's already happened" school would say it does not matter that the Rangers won the pennant last night--what matters is that we are going to the World Series next week. But if we had not won the pennant last night, we wouldn't be going to the Series. And you can be sure that in years to come, when the Rangers' play is less than stellar and another Series seems like a far-off dream, people who were in the Ballpark last night will speak fondly of their memories of that game.

Okay--it's an absurdly short-range illustration. After all, the game is only a few hours in the past, and the Series is less than a week away. And it's baseball, not war or politics or literature or art or anything that's supposed to be Important. So what's my point?

For one, I'd argue that it is important to a large number of people. Will it advance civilization in a perceptible way? Probably not. But it will bring people to the Metroplex, and a few of them might stay. It will bring business, and some of that business might find opportunities to grow and flourish here and bring jobs. People who have had a hard couple of years might be able to take advantage of some of those jobs, and lift themselves and their families to better lives. To them, this will have been as big a deal as the war on terrorism or anything that's happening in Washington. And without it, it may not have been possible.

So you see, everything is tied in to history. Our world would be very different if Washington had died of smallpox, if Nixon had not lied, if Columbus had sailed south instead of west, if the Mongols had not conquered China, if the Danes had not conquered much of England. Our lives would be very different without Einstein's physics, Edison's inventions, Gutenberg's press, steel, wheels, or fire. Our families would be very different if great-great-grandma Josephine hadn't put her little brother in a wagon and headed west with no money and no plan, or if uncle Thaddeus hadn't been killed in Vietnam. Our town would be very different if the Cowboys had never won a superbowl. And it's all in the past, already happened, already done and gone.

It's who we are. It's where we come from. And it happened, whether or not we care, whether or not we record it. But our lives might just be a little better for knowing.

That's why I study history. Care to join me?


Friday, October 15, 2010

Histry Nerd is Going Pro!

Right. Here's the deal.

I am not a credentialed historian.

I don't have a Ph.D., or tenure, or a professor's chair.

My Master's degree is in business, not history.

I didn't major in history. Or even minor.

All I have is a bunch of books, a few ideas, and a lifelong love of history.

And for me, that's going to be enough. I'm moving forward with it.

Because I've realized--life is too short not to spend it doing something you love. See, I have a good job. It pays well. I'm very good at it. But it isn't what I love.

History is what I love. So that's what I'm going to do.

I've been teaching a history class to my kids' homeschool group. And you know what? They love it. Not just my kids, but just about every kid in the class. And so do I. None of us--not even the parents--cares that I don't have a history degree. We're having fun, and we're learning, and that's what matters.

So I'm going to figure out how to do this full time. Writing, teaching, sharing... you know, nerd stuff. Histry Nerd stuff.

I'm working on my plan. I have some ideas. I'm not quitting my day job, Mom. Not yet.

But this is where my passion is, and I'm going to make it happen.

Watch this space. This is gonna be pretty cool.