|Think About It...||"A generation which ignores history has has no past and no future." Robert Heinlein|
Welcome to Think About It...
By Neil Brien
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Welcome to Think About It. This is a website devoted primarily to my love of history.
I've always loved history. Well, let me clarify that- I complained just as loudly as any other high school student who was force-fed dates and names like buckets of castor oil. And like most students, I often remarked to myself, and occasionally to my teachers, the question posed a million times each school year by kids all over the planet- "how in the world will memorizing [insert fact here] help me when I get out of school?" Not that memorizing the date of the Battle of Hastings hasn't proven useful over the years (it's 1066 A.D., for trivia's worth). But like most people, I found it difficult to grasp history's true worth, let alone stay awake during lectures.
My parents were born in Ireland, and we went there a few times as a family when I was young. I remember going to Cashel, a castle, during one of our day trips. "The Rock of Cashel" is just outside of Dublin on the road to Cork, and is built upon a hill of solid rock. It was built in the 4th century and was the seat of kings and medieval bishops for 900 years, continuing as an important castle until the early 17th century. Cashel was the original fortification of the Eoghanachta, or kings of Munster; Brian BorÃº, a legendary Irish king, was crowned there in 977. As a boy, I gazed upon this fortress from the street below, and began to imagine all of the battles that must have been waged on that very hill.
As I stood within the walls of the castle with my father and a cousin, I suddenly became very aware that my shoes were touching the very stone upon which these ancient people had walked, run, played, fought, and died. I could run my hands along walls that had seen those battles, along with great feasts and other important events. I peered through the long slits cut into the massive stone walls which protected the inhabitants from the arrows of attacking archers. I imagined the hearths ablaze with fires, the gates and walls guarded by sentries, and the halls busy with activity. I thought to myself- what a cool place to have lived in! I told my Dad what I was thinking. He smiled, and agreed that it must have been really something to have lived in such a place during such a time, though he gently pointed out many of the modern conveniences that weren't available to kids back then. We talked about how tough it must have been to live and survive in such conditions.
As I grew older, and began to read a lot of history, I realized that I did love history- I just didn't like the way it was taught to me in school. And while the subject of history isn't exactly an ice-breaker in most daily conversations, I find that knowing more about current and past civilizations, cultures, religions, species, and even the earth itself has helped me to better understand and communicate with people from different backgrounds and experiences than my own. And as I begin to view the future as history that simply hasn't happened yet, my perspective on how one can choose to spend one's life sharpens, and I draw strength from knowing that countless numbers of people have encountered the same types of life challenges that we all face sooner or later- being a good husband and father, protecting your kids, making a career, doing the right thing, etc. The thing is, well-written history can bring alive people, places, and events that took place even thousands of years ago, and place them squarely in today's context. It can teach us things, if we are willing to listen. It's all a matter of perspective. To me, virtually everything is history, or certainly one day will be.
So what about the name, "Think About It?" For me, the term is meant simply to suggest that we all have much to gain from learning about important and interesting history. We gain a richer appreciation for our lives, and perhaps view it in the context of an opportunity, rather than as a given. As far as the site goes, Think About It will focus on many topics, including the history of ideas, exploration, music, film, technology, and the earth itself. This site will offer articles, commentary, book and film reviews, occasional guest articles, interviews, and links to other interesting sites. I hope you enjoy the topics and information put forth. Hopefully, history will be kind.