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The Story That Rhymes
Wisdom Letter #6
Do you remember studying history in school?
Did you like it?
I remember getting interested in certain events and their backstories in my history textbook every year, but ended up resenting the subject as a whole because of all the dates and numbers and tiny irrelevant details I had to mug up to pass the exams.
Now, as an adult I don’t have to memorize any detail about any historic event. I can just google whatever I want whenever I want.
But I realize that knowing history is important, I realize that only when I can understand the past, I can make sense of the present and work towards building a better future.
For example, this guy said this—
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Now it doesn’t matter who said it, Wikipedia will tell me that(you can click on that link and find out).
But what he said, the idea and the importance of history, I must remember and imbibe in my psyche.
With that approach, lets try to take in the Big lessons from our ‘Big History’.
And the best place to start, to understand how human society came to be the way it is today, is to talk about the Agricultural revolution.
Agriculture fundamentally changed the texture of our society. We went from being small bands of hunter-gatherer folk with short life-spans to large societies of farmers and traders who figured out ways to stay in a single place and live longer.
Whether it improved the quality of life for an individual human is still debatable, but agriculture definitely improved the survival and the domination of our species as a whole.
Here’s a video that discusses these ideas in detail. Its a great channel to get your regular history lessons from.
The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1
Its mind-boggling how certain historic events impact so much of what we see in our society today. Its almost unbelievable but the two world wars in the first half of the last century had bigger roles to play to shape our present than we can appreciate.
In this post, Morgan Housel does a brilliant job of explaining in a single chain of cause and effect, the impacts that the second world war had on American economics, culture and society.
As much as it is wonderful story-telling, it is also a lesson in how to think about history. How to gain the most from it, what to ignore and what to focus on when we talk about our history. I think we will do well to think about our own history in this manner as well.
Read the post :
Talking about our own history. Perhaps the historical event that has had the largest impact on our country has been the colonial rule for 200 years.
Its difficult to analyze the exact impact of the colonial rule. But we can see its relics everywhere around us. We can see them in our outdated laws, in our railway systems, in our bureaucracy, in our love for tea and our reverence for the English language and white skin.
Apart from social, legal, cultural impacts, the economic impacts, and corresponding reparations, of 200 years of colonial rule on India are very hard to fathom and calculate, and we may never be able to accurately put a number to it.
Nevertheless, this Oxford Union speech from Dr. Shashi Tharoor back in 2015 makes a great point about the need to acknowledge that reparations are indeed owed.
There’s enough adrenaline here to get every Indian’s heart thumping, watch the video just for that, Dr. Tharoor’s vocabulary and wit is of course unmatched.
Dr Shashi Tharoor MP - Britain Does Owe Reparations
There’s History, then there’s Science.
We tend to think of them as two separate entities, because they were separate subjects in school. (It’s funny how much our thinking is shaped by what we were taught in school)
But in reality, the ‘history of science’ is what has shaped our modern world the most.
We tend to study history as a story, with heroes and villains, and clear narratives that go from one event to next, but actually its more about people taking tough decisions during difficult times and living with the consequences of those decisions, and often, unintended consequences that nobody could have foreseen. Its very messy, painful and hard to comprehend centuries later.
In his book ‘A Short History of nearly Everything’ author Bill Bryson does an amazing job of building narratives and clearing out the messiness from the history of science.
There are stories of scientists making discoveries and inventions amidst various difficulties and hardships that are unimaginable to us today.
We know a lot about intergalactic space as well as subatomic particles, but we do not know what all scientists must have gone through to acquire such in depth knowledge.
My favorite quote from the book is where the author talks about crunching the 4.54 billion year long life of the earth in a 24 hour long day.
Its fascinating, that in such a hypothetical day, Dinosaurs emerge only at around 11 pm and rule the planet for around 40 minutes. And the Age of humans only starts at 11:58:43. We have been here a mere 1 minute and 17 seconds.
We really are just a tiny spec in the sands of time.
Read the entire quote on goodreads here
A good pictorial representation of the 24 hour Earth is here—
There’s a light humorous undertone that helps you keep going in this 672 page marathon.
Read just 5 pages everyday, and in 4 months your life will be tremendously enriched.
Get the book.
Signing off for the week, here’s an interesting quote from one of the most wittiest people in history
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme
Think about this idea as you think about history.
There are patterns to be found in the history of the world around us, as well as in our personal histories.
What are the lessons we can learn from our own history, and what patterns might we observe as rhyming if not repeating in our own lives. How can we be better prepared for them.
Think about it.
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Aditi & Ayush
This was Wisdom Letter #6, in case you missed last week’s letter, check it out here- #5 , its called “Find Your Fit”.
And if you’re wondering why we are doing this project, what is the point of it? checkout the intro post, it might make some sense!