The 19th century French author, André Gide, said, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”  When history is ignored some things need to be said again, or at least examined again.  Everything that is received wisdom is open for re-examination because in different times and places it may be wrong.  In my raising topics for conversation I shall not try to say everything again, but hope to examine existence from different angles.

My point of reference is thinking historically.  Everything has a history, every movement, idea, organization, person, and family has a history.  My favorite focus for thinking historically is organizations, religious and non-religious.  My study of the Christian tradition has provided insight into how all organizations interact with their context, both affecting and being affected by it.  My reading of business books has also informed my understanding of the Church as organization.  The metaphors that currently illuminate my understanding are dementia, baseball and rock music.

History matters.  It matters as a window open on to the past; it matters as a foundation for moving into the future.  This became even clearer to me living for 11 years with someone deserted by both his short-term and long-term memory.  Those of us with relatively healthy brains idealize living in the present moment.  When the present moment is all you have, though, you have no past on which to rely for comparison of experience, for decision-making and no hope for the future.  Life is a series of present moments with no connection.  No past, no foundation for moving into the future.

History is also multivalent.  Facts are not history.  Interpreting the facts is.  That is what makes history multivalent.  Don’t believe me?  Ask siblings to describe their parents or an event from their childhood and see if there is anything that indicates they grew up in the same household.  There will be facts, but the understanding of those facts can vary widely.

Let’s converse about facts and their interpretation.  History is like a multi-faceted prism where the light refracts differently depending on which facet it hits.  Or history is like a symphony.  The notes the composer wrote remain the same, but each conductor’s leading of each orchestra accents the composition differently.  History matters.  I look forward to the conversations.

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11 Responses to Welcome!

  1. Paula Snell says:

    I enjoy watching my granddaughter (22 months) as she lives fully in the present moment – experiencing and expressing a miriad of emotions as they strike her. But I appreciate your point that knowing the past and anticipating the future give life its fullness. I look forward to this conversation.

    • drrp says:

      Thank you, Paula. I suspect that enhancing the enjoyment of your granddaughter is you know she has a heritage, you are a part of it and you are eager to pass it on to her. Also your faith is she has a future and you anticipate being a part of that, also enhancing your enjoyment. Your response would be different if for some reason the present was all she had — that for some reason she would never know her past and would never be able to anticipate the future. Leaping from the personal to the more general — some organizations are like that. They think right now is all that matters limiting their future by not building on the past or repeating it and not recognizing it because the players, i.e. the window-dressing is different. So good to hear from you. Thank you for checking in.

  2. Rhon Williams says:

    Enjoyed the post! Made me think about Carpe diem! We are so caught up in seizing each day that we forgot what happened yesterday. Waiting for more insights….

    • drrp says:

      Rhon, thanks for checking in. So good to hear from you. I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long for …. insight! ’til next time….

  3. Ted Fuson says:

    Phyllis, I like this very much. I, too, study history, though my academic training has been more pastoral and practical, than scholarly as is yours. I simply know that too many live as if they have no navel. If I know how to post something on my page at Facebook (oh, I get so frustrated.), I’d do it. You are such a bright light to so many by your grace, wit, wisdom and scholarship.
    Ted Fuson

  4. Sally Gore says:

    Great thoughts to kick-off (or should I say, “throw out the first pitch”) for your new venture, PRP. I’m really looking forward to reading and sharing.

    Having recently experienced my first somewhat significant physical ailment, hospital stay, surgery, etc., your observation, “When the present moment is all you have, though, you have no past on which to rely for comparison of experience, for decision-making and no hope for the future.” struck a chord. I’ve been thinking and writing about this very thing the past weeks. Having no experience to rely upon, it’s been incredibly difficult to judge things like healing time, pain tolerance, stamina, etc.

    The first time through things is tough and I’ve realized a great deal about how our current healthcare system (U.S.) fails us in the area of preparing the uninitiated for what’s to come. In the quest to be more “efficient”, i.e. cost-effective, our healthcare system too often releases patients and their caregivers into an unknown – a situation that can and does breed hopelessness and the subsequent cycle of recurrent problems, non-healing and poor health.

    I work in a field that’s ultimately concerned with providing accurate, quality information to biomedical researchers, healthcare providers, and patients. As a patient the past months, I’ve realized first-hand that we have a LONG way to go to improve our work here. Hopefully, my personal history can now inform how I both do my job, as well as how I help friends, family members and others in similar situations. Hopefully, I’ll do these things better.

    • drrp says:

      So thoughtful, Sally. Of course, healthcare really is a moving target. What is accurate one day will soon be either out-of-date or proven wrong, or…. Your personal history will make a difference — to you and to others.

  5. Pam Ash says:

    Thank you for such thoughtful words. My undergraduate degree was in history so I am familiar with the importance that history has on our today and our tomorrows. In a paper I submitted for a BTSR class, which was subsequently published, I wrote about how important it was to the subject of my paper that he preserve a record of his present “which would become the past for future generations.” It is in that history that we find the necessary context you write about. When my daughter would describe how grumpy some people were, I reminded her that we cross paths with others where they are at that moment in their lives. It would seem, too, that as we journey through our lives, our contexts change either in response to or based on our experiences. I am looking forward to reading more.

    • Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants says:

      Thank you, Pam. I look forward to continuing this journey with you whenever we can.

  6. Rachel Keeney says:

    See what you think of this (long) quote from John Keegan’s history, The First World War:
    [In a speech to the Institute of Bankers in London on 17 January 1912, Norman] Angell argued that:
    “commercial interdependence, which is the special mark of banking as it is the mark or no other profession or trade in quite the same degree — the fact that the interest and solvency of one is bound up with the interest and solvency of many; that there must be confidence in the due fulfilment of mutual obligation, or whole sections of the edifice crumble, is surely doing a great deal to demonstrate that morality after all is not founded upon self-sacrifice, but upon enlightened self-interest, a clearer and more complete understanding of all the ties that bind us the one to the other. And such clearer understanding is bound to improve, not merely the relationship of one group to another, but the relationship of all men [sic] to all other men, to create a consciousness which must make for more efficient human co-operation, a better human society.”

    In other words, God is dead, we don’t need Christianity or any other moral and religious system, and we certainly don’t need Glass-Steagall to keep us from learning history by repeating it. (Barbara Tuchman has long been my favorite historian/moralist, but Keegan is moving up fast.)