read a fair amount of history. In fact, I have for several years been
an active reader in a men's book club we formed at my church, meaning
that we read one non-fiction book each month and then engage in
intentional discussion about the book with others interested in
acquisition of knowledge.
My little confession is that I liked history even as a youngster, though
it certainly was not fashionable - and I should probably have majored
in history in college, for I know that would've increased the chances
I'd actually paid attention in class and accomplished the assigned
reading (but that's a different story for a different day).
The main reason I enjoy history is that it helps me to understand the
context of a lot of current events and near-future predictions - or
perhaps more precisely, to understand that there IS a context, that
history - leading up to this moment - is a continuous feed rather than a
disconnected and discrete episodic narrative. Each event we take notice
of is but a culmination of all previous events.
Historians and philosophers play with this stuff all the time and play
at a much higher level than I can. For today, though, I grasp that
history, no matter how else we may appreciate or disdain it as a
discipline or as a hobby, can help immensely when we are trying to
understand how and why things are happening today and how things might
Take that damnable media clustersomething they are gleefully calling the
"fiscal cliff". I just Googled it and got 901,000,000 - yes, that's
MILLION - results in .12 of a second. Really? Really?
If I were a nervous person, I could be bathing in my own fear simply
based on the shrillness of the reportage. Those talking heads (or maybe
some other part of the journalists' anatomy) get to fill millions of
column inches and thousands of hours of broadcast time that we once
considered a valuable resource.
Fortunately, my reading of history - and my razor sharp memory of a
similarly anticipated point of absolute, unavoidable national financial
ruin: the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 - tell me that it simply does not
matter a whit in my personal life what happens if/when Congress fails to
act like they care about the country.
I cannot influence much less control the outcome, so why should I even
pay any attention? If I worried about my investments, then I should not
be in the market at or near any times susceptible to market fluctuation.
If I am going to need my money soon, I should not be in the stock
market at all, or only minimally.
The thing is, life goes on. I have a lot of control over big chunks of
my life - over my relationships, over my work, over my spiritual life.
It is much more important for me to attend to those close-to-home
matters - than to Washington or Congress or anything else outside my
In my life, I have decided that the fiscal cliff is like Atlantis or Big
Foot - a story that sticks but has no real effect on me unless I choose
to allow it. This is not to say that I trust Congress to behave in a
statesmanlike manner, rather I am comforted in knowing that, in the
great arc of history, this is simply not a big deal. It is a very small
deal. World War II was a big deal. There's a big difference.
By Tedd Oyler, J.D.