It’s an amusing spectacle, every time I advise a pupil to read history books. The typical reply is: “But, history is boring”. My response is usually: “It’s not enjoyable because you’re not trying hard enough to extract the rich lessons it has to offer”. This answer elicits puzzled looks almost every time.
It isn’t until after a short explanation is given to my interlocutors, that they tend to agree with my assertion. After enough clarification, they promise to read some history books. (At least, this is what they’ve told me they’ll do. It could very well be that they desire to put an end to the conversation, thereby promising something they have no intention of keeping.)
Truth is, as John Adams wrote to his son John Quincy, the study of history is probably the most “solid instruction” there is. This is attributable to the fact that antiquity isn’t solely comprised of events – history is primarily the story of the people who made those events happen. Without people, there are no events.
Moreover, people are an interesting subject matter in and of themselves. Who they are, how they react to certain circumstances and difficulties, the decisions they make, etc. A curious reader of history learns much from such persons and the events they partake in or cause, which in turn edifies and enriches his existence.
Think upon it, dear reader; Is it not inspirational when one reads about a famous figure’s courage, wit, tenacity and wisdom? Pray tell, isn’t it also beneficial to learn about that same individual’s sins, mistakes and shortcomings so as to avoid repeating their errors, live more virtuously and resist the temptation to idolize mere men?
Therefore, it isn’t history that is boring or bland – it’s our society’s self-absorption, ignorance and unwillingness to learn from the past that acts as an impedance to the valuable lessons the past is ready to bestow upon us. (It also doesn’t help when certain authors cannot creatively write about history. More on this topic in a later post.)
This principle should be of particular familiarity and importance to Biblical Christians, being that the Scriptures follow this framework but with additional and unique vital information – its pages are replete with divine revelation about God’s nature, character, knowledge and wisdom. It is only when one reads the Bible as a vain religious ritual and not as it should be read, with a humble and inquiring mind and heart, where no advantage is gained from reading its pages. Again, as with history, this has nothing to do with the Bible itself and everything to do with the attitude with which we approach the Scriptures.
Dear reader, let us always be predisposed towards an accurate retelling of history. Otherwise, we leave much practical knowledge to collect dust on desks and nightstands, as is the case with many.