I have always loved to hear the tales of old. I think it started with the stories my grandmother and father used to tell about "back in the day" and "when I was growing up..."There is that old joke about how older people always had it so much harder than younger people ("I had to WALK to school IN THE SNOW and it was UPHILL BOTH WAYS.") that always causes rolled eyes. Well, I didn't roll my eyes. I loved hearing every story my elders told about their past. I think it was because of those stories that I fell in love with history. I'm sure that growing up I read more historical fiction than was good for me.
Because of that fascination, in college I was spell-bound in history classes and ATE.THEM.UP. (Just because I have a degree in English does not mean that I don't occasionally use improper grammar. Ahem.) At some point during a meeting with one of my advisors in college, it was noticed that I had taken a lot of upper-level history classes and I was told that if I added one more I would have enough credits for a history minor. Ka-ching! My dad laughed when I took a course called "The History of Baseball," but my FAVORITE history professor offered it, and my then-boyfriend-now-husband was/is a HUGE baseball fan. I loved every minute of that class. It was by far NOT my favorite history class, however. My favorite, without a doubt, hands down, bar none, was my World War I class.
I'd not really studied the time period in detail before, and was mesmerized by it. I still remember a lot of what we discussed in that class, including names, dates, battles, themes and theories. Imagine my supreme joy when the second season of Downton Abbey featured characters during that particular time period! The precise, historically accurate themes and details of those episodes brought tears to my eyes. YES. That is what shell-shock looked like. YES. Disfigured men did try to pose as dead comrades. YES. The horror caused deep pacifist tendencies. (I'm not proposing that everyone go out and watch all of Downton Abbey now. Despite the historical accuracy of the WWI episodes, subsequent episodes lost a lot of that, and a lot of my respect for tipping their hats to liberal media agenda. And not subtly, either. Grr.)
The biggest take-away from my WWI class was the fact that history repeats itself. Humanity didn't learn from that war (or any previous war, for that matter). If you think about that for too long, it can really be a depressing thought. What is far more depressing to me is when I hear people talk about how much they "hate" history. And what is even more alarming is when people don't know the stories about their parents and grandparents. Because I grew up hearing those tales, I thought everyone else did, too. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that often, my peers don't know their family history. How can we understand where we are going if we don't know from where we have come? This is true on a global as well as a personal level.
If we don't know our history, we are going to repeat it.