The Richmond History Podcast

Monday, February 13, 2012

History, or What We Make of It

I am pleased to introduce History Replays Today's first guest contributors, J.J. Vega.  Mr Vega writes a blog of his poetry and is currently in training to protect our country with the United States Air Force.  I hope you enjoy.

History, or What We Make of It

I interrupt your normally scheduled blog program to bring you a little something different than what HRT brings to the historical realm.

I have more of a passing interest in history. My preferences range through philosophy, theology, sociology, and other human sciences. When HRT asked me to write something for this blog, I was a bit perplexed. How was I supposed to come up with something original without blatantly copy and pasting something from Wikipedia?

As usual, the problem at hand started the intellectual and creative juices flowing, and I realized that perhaps I could shed light on history, not by telling a specific story, but by sharing my perspective on why it is so important. It is important, even vital, to the development of our species. It is vital to our development as individuals.

We human beings perceive time in a linear fashion. In fact, the idea of perceiving time at all is a fascinating historical development. Originally, we relied on agrarian cycles in nature to mark time: the movement of the sun was our primary indication of time passing.

As our technology developed, we experienced the need to more accurately mark time. Monks in the original Catholic church developed the first timepieces, crude instruments capable of mechanically indicating a completed cycle of time. From there on, time started forming us as a species as we were able to surpass a reliance on the sun and accomplish tasks at any moment in the day, reliably. Monks could pray several times a day with the chiming of a bell. Governments could more efficiently organize. Farmers could work earlier and later. Industry followed soon thereafter.

As we developed the ability to mark time in the present, we developed the capacity to look backwards through time via written documents and artifacts to study time passed before our present and understand how our ancestors lived. Without the capability to understand time as a linear movement and the ability to measure it with a concrete, logical, and precise system, our level of understanding of the development of our species would be non-existent.

Why is linear time so important to history? At its core, history is the collection of stories into one massive narrative showing the development of an entire species from one fixed point to now. We see our stories in a linear fashion, much like we read left to right. Our stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We devour these stories, like so many other ones, because they increase our understanding. They increase our understanding of the world we live in because it evolved from a world that came before.

We see the patterns present in the lives of our predecessors and see how they manifest in our lives today. We yearn, more than anything, to be authors. We are teeming with possibilities of plot lines that will fashion the narrative structure of our lives, a structure that will link backwards and forwards via the ever present arrow of time. We must know how stories were written before to better write our stories now. We need history and historians even more than we need scientists, civil engineers, politicians, and physicians.

The work is vital to all of us. Education is what separates us from the primates: it is what gives us greater control of our own destinies. The story you write today could be the blueprint for success that the next generation uses in the story they write on their own. We are writing the story of a sentient species, capable of producing wonders. The next chapter of that story relies on our ability to write this one as best as we can.

Let’s make it a good one.

To read JJ Vega's poems visit  

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