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The Consolation of History

October 25, 2013

     I have a book on my shelves, The Consolation of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.  I haven’t read it yet.  I suppose I’ll get around to it one of these days, but ever since I saw the title my thought has been that the consolation of history is a better bet.
     First you have to work at finding true history which is everywhere in the world hindered and obscured by myth, pride and group thought .  The American myth, of course, comes first to my American mind, but every nation has one.  England, France, Kenya, Japan and everyone else has a national myth based on a few facts overwhelmed by blatant nonsense.  First one has to understand the presense of these myths and then try to peek over, around and under them for a little truth.
     But I’m wandering off course here.  Reading history is very comforting because you quickly understand that whatever the end of the world event people are being hysterical about now, has happened before and passed.  We’ve gotten over it and carried on.  While there is the slight possibility that the end will come, it is really nothing to worry about or expect or start hoarding dry beans over.  The universe around us teaches eternity.  No reason to believe, I think, that we’re not here for the long run.
     Big bad asteroids and global warming and atomic bombs do make good copy.  Shouted out in 60 point headlines, they sell newspapers, make money and snag human interest like a treble hook.  They are good for business.  We do love our dreamed up catastrophies, a fact some could call morbid but I believe to be bound up in our genes.
     Man is the disaster animal.  Our genius is in reacting.  When danger is at hand we really come to life.  This is one of the reasons, I believe, that mankind thrived.  The counter attack, when our backs are against one wall or another, is when we finally shake off all the horse crap and get down to business.  Every war, as hateful as they are, has brought an explosion of development in virtually every aspect of life.  Canned food, refrigeration and plasma are just a few of the things conflict inspired.  Without war, for example, we’d be a couple of centuries behind ourselves in medical treatment.
     We love being under threat.  We come alive then, peering out of our normal rut and thrilled by the view. Bearers of bad news also bring vitality and interest.
     This universal security we strive for could be called anti human. With safety we degenerate into inactive, unthinking slobs going through whatever motions we must but not innovating, searching, living.  Not evolving.  Some one or thing must stir the pond and bring the bottom silt up into life. 
    

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