The Bright Light of History’s Lessons

History's lessons

We all have need of history’s lessons.  Our modern culture with its focus on the individual’s beliefs (whether factual, true or even sensible), is not new.  In fact, if I had to pin a time for the beginnings of these “modern” ideas (e.g., “No one can tell ME what is true or what I should think; what I think is the truth for me!”) on one figure, I would choose Protagoras.   Ever heard of him?  Probably not.  He was born circa 490 BC and was a very controversial thinker.  He stirred up a lot of arguments, and what you think of him could be either challenging to you or similar to the way you think. 

Therefore, when we decide what we will believe, we have to at least consider what others think or we choose to appear blind or egotistical.  Oh, I know, history is one of those demeaned subjects these days, and our teens’ eyes glaze over at its mention.  But this is where we can begin educating young people today.  Accordingly, we don’t have to believe what others say and have said.  But we must at least think a little about how we have arrived at where we are.  

Light from History’s Lessons

Humans are not perfect.  But we can still remind today’s youth by asking, “Don’t you think we can all benefit from the lessons of the past, both good and bad?  So let’s think about them?”  As we all grow up, learning from the past is just what we all are doing: learning from our own history and our experiences.  Consequently, we base most of what we believe on our experiences.  History, its stories, and its intellectual journeys provide what we call empirical evidence, which if we are going to be smart, we will at least consider for what it is worth.  

Empirical evidence is the evidence provided by experience or observation.  Even the ancient peoples looked up at the stars and pondered the mysteries of nature and of life just like we do at times.  They thought about the big questions, too, like What is the best way to think and live?  Who are we? What is this world we find ourselves in? And where did it come from? 

Don’t let yourself be drowned by the little things of life, such as “what am I going to wear today?” and “why do people like me or not want to be with me?”  Think about big questions, too.  

4 ways our beliefs have been divided

There are four main ways that have divided the beliefs of people throughout all of human history.  Lets’ begin learning history’s lessons by wisely sorting through them.

1. We should pay attention to what a human wants, needs, and experiences, and it will explain and guide us through our lives. 

As Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things.”  We don’t need anything else to guide us through life, just ourselves.  Our own experience and knowledge are enough.  Therefore, he recommends we map our own journey without anyone else’s map.  It has become the mantra of our culture.  

2. We all have a mind and it is amazing. 

We should use it and choose to believe in its ability to guide us through life.  In other words, human reason is enough and will unlock all of life’s and our world’s mysteries.   

3. I am going to close my eyes to anything I don’t like. 

Ignorance is bliss! However, don’t forget, ignorance can be dangerous, too.  Fools often follow this path.  

4. There has to be something or someone else that we need to listen to for guidance in life. 

The world has been divided on this issue in every age — but surprisingly and convincingly, quite lopsided.  

George Gallup Jr. and D. Michael Lindsay, in Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs, reported that in the last 50 years, belief in God among Americans has not dropped below 90%.  (It still remains about the same).  Really!  That’s an astonishing piece of empirical evidence. 

Most don’t give this a second thought.  Or they never knew about it because the news glosses right over it, keeping us ignorant of what it doesn’t want us to know or what it considers not newsworthy.  Is this “something or someone greater than us” where our intelligence has come from? 

On a worldwide scale, just think of all the religions that believe in a god of sorts — Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and on and on — and the world percentage of those who believe (or have believed) in something greater than ourselves actually grows.  

As we continue this series, we will think together about each of these ways our beliefs have been divided.  They are the broad strokes of how to begin thinking about our lives by observing history’s lessons.  Begin with this astonishing piece of empirical evidence.  

Today’s parenting thought:

If your child seems depressed, try the medicine of pleasure.  Then… (to be continued)


Who Am I?In my new book Who Am I?, I describe how we have become “crooked thinkers” and how to break out of this prison of the mind to become instruments of change for a better world by recognizing the source of our value as humans.  You can get your copy HERE.  (Psst!  Subscribers to my weekly updates can receive a 15% discount and free shipping from the above link!)


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