Monday, February 23, 2009
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
When I first started listening to the 24-volume audio set of the book, JOHN ADAMS, I thought to myself, I'll never finish this. It's just too historical.
But since it was a Christmas gift and my favorite NPR station was in the midst of an interminable fund-raiser, I recently decided to give old John a whirl.
Gradually, I found myself lured into this 18th century patriot's world: his love for his wife, his personal vanity, his disappointment in his ne'er-do-well alcoholic son, his hurt over the betrayal of friends he trusted, his awareness of his own aging, his resolve to become more disciplined in his studies and exericise, his concern about finances, his determination to make a mark on the world, his desire to be a positive part of the pages of history.
With only four more cds to go, I am already missing John Adams, a President I knew little about before my extended visit with him on my commutes to and from school, hospital, and work.
I am struck by the similarties between his time and ours-- the corruption and ego that permeates government, idealism that is struck down by the punishing weight of reality and inertia.
While we fancy ourselves quite different from our forebears, at the core so much of being human is the same ol' stuff.
One of my favorite quotations is, "History is not destiny." But with the comparisons that exist between our time and Adams', I am inclined to question that truth.
For history NOT to be destiny, we must employ an action verb. Unless, we muster our resolve, formulate a plan of action, and stick to our goals, I see that we probably ARE destined to repeat history. Changing destiny on any level requires action and commitment, and it is a fallacy to assume otherwise.
If we keep the same eating habits that led to our parents' obesity, we will keep the same obesity and harmful effects to our health. If we maintain the same prejudices our ancestors lived by, we will propagate the discord that exists in our society and our world. If we don't change, we doom our children to the same destiny we inherited.
One of the misfortunes of middle age is the perception and reality that there is little time left to do all that must be done to make a difference.
The moment to act is now. Destiny is fast approaching.