Remembering endows history with meaning and significance. George Berkeley wrote in about 1710, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Certainly, this is a philosophical thought experiment. It raises questions about observation and perception.
So, what is the difference between not remembering history and sound we did not hear?
Remembering enables us to learn from history. Perhaps it is difficult to know what we should learn for any historical event. But other events do carry pretty a pretty clear message. As Dennis Prager observes “… it is clear from the Exodus story that freedom is the desired human condition and should be fought for.” He cites Michael Walzer ‘s case: Exodus inspires more movements of social change than any other…
Remembering leads to wisdom. Wisdom is impossible without remembering. Wisdom is learning from what we ourselves have done but perhaps more importantly from the lives of others. Wisdom itself matters because good is not achieved without it. How often do we see good intentions without wisdom leading to bad, even evil outcomes?
Remembering makes the moral process of civilization possible. Do we not have to remember where we came from to grok what advancements we have made? How else can we appreciate our situation? How else is it possible to plot a path forward?
Remembering links us with those who have come before us. It reminds us we are part of a greater whole. We are part of an ongoing people. We are part of something greater than ourselves be it an ideal, cause or action.
Remembering ensures that those who have suffered and perished are not forgotten. Their struggles are in vain if no one remembers. Their struggle and sacrifice are for naught if we do not remember. That is why we and other cultures honor the old and keep revered places for the dead. They are our history as long as we remember them. Personal attachment is thus magnified in importance.
Evil and avoidance
Remembering ensures evil is not forgotten. We cannot allow evil to disappear into the ash heap of history. From evil, we learn most. At the very least we remember evil longer than good. We learn pain, avoidance and the necessary paths to a better result.
Remembering is the only way to avoid the repetition of past mistakes. People have short lives and shorter memories. There are many evils in the world and man has committed all of them. We have the opportunity to reduce the occurrence of evil moving forward but only if remember. What came before will come again unless we remember and understand.
Remembering makes enduring gratitude possible. By ensuring goodness and good people are not forgotten we increase the likelihood of others emulating them. The best way to have a better world tomorrow is to remember the good parts of the present and the past and build upon the foundation. So, why is remembering important to you?