Why are people so interested in the past? It’s been said that we look to the past to find the future. On a personal level, we just seem to like to reminisce.

Sometimes it’s because we preferred the past, or our individual past, for some reason. It can be fascinating to see where we were, and compare that to where we are. Or to see where old friends and family are, to compare them to us – human nature, really.

Some like to one-up their old friends; some feel relief that they had different, better experiences. Some are just curious. Maybe it’s the old “what goes around, comes around”, which can involve gloating…or despair.

Of course, some people prefer to outright ignore their past history. And still others see no value in reliving the “old days”.

While I do, to some extent, understand why there are those who prefer to forget – certainly we all would like to “forget” certain incidents – I fail to comprehend why a person would see no value in remembering.

Everything that happens to us, every decision we make – purposely or not – is a part of what we become.

Everything thought, every environmental influence, every event shapes our minds and our souls.
What it’s even more interesting, is that all the decisions made by our ancestors also affect us today.

Think about this, for a moment: if you and your spouse decide to move to a different city, for whatever reason, your kids will be moving too. New schools, new friends, new experiences. Now, perhaps your decision involves employment, or a better opportunity, so surely you believe things will be better for your family. But it’s still different, and it still has an effect – either positive or negative, or a combination of both.

By the same token, the decisions made by your grandparents, or great-grandparents, have changed your own life. Going back in time even farther, your life could have turned in very different directions at any given time. And it’s really easy to second-guess – that whole “hindsight” thing.

From a personal standpoint, some of my ancestors came to the US from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century. What if they’d stayed? Ach du lieber!

They started a farm in the river bottoms; what if they’d chosen another area? Or another city? Or what if they’d decided not to farm at all, but to make their living as merchants?

What if my grandparents had had more children? Or moved across the country after they married?

All these questions and scenarios are unanswerable, in the long run, but certainly interesting to contemplate. Even the choice of a school for your children, or a neighborhood in which to purchase a home, can have long-term consequences. Of course, we don’t think of these as “consequences”, because you can only plan and prepare to an extent; but every decision we make affects the future in some way.

So, in a nutshell, the only way you can know who you are is to know from where you came, and how you got there. This is why people study the past, why they like to remember, to think, to contemplate. This knowledge helps us to move on, to carry on, and to make the right decisions.


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