History tends to record the extremes; the events and people which exemplify the best and worst in life.
Take the weather for example. As I write it’s 80 degrees on Waikiki beach and the tourists are being fanned by a light 11 mph trade wind. But this factoid will scarcely be found in the annals of history. What is more likely to be recorded are the years of drought in California, which helped fuel its massive wildfires in the last few summers. One of the most memorable fires was the inferno that destroyed 11,000 homes in Paradise California in 2018 and sent residents fleeing for their lives amid swirls of bright orange sparks.
As far as “earth-shattering” events go; it’s the earthquakes that topple buildings, the massive mudslides that bury villages, the tornadoes that splinter homes, and Japan’s 2011 tsunami that carried waves of debris and bodies out to sea. These are the kinds of natural disasters that videos will be replaying for hundreds of years.
People earn a place in history usually through personal achievement. Take Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan. With nothing more than a pouch of chalk for equipment, he scaled this vertical wall of granite like a spider in four hours. Or the event which every American kid learns about in elementary school, the Wright brothers first powered solo airplane flight in 1903. Lots of other folks, however, achieve notoriety for doing things that are quite bizarre. Ayanna Williams just happens to carry the distinction of having the longest fingernails in the world. (Although judging from the photo, I don’t see how she’s able to carry anything.)
The events that endure in recorded history are those which began long ago and in some respects are still ongoing. Like the evolution and migration of our species, the birth and growth of world religions and the rise and decline of civilizations.
And what seems to be emphasized most within the context of these movements of people is again, the extremes. Some extremes represent what we consider to be good: such as the life stories of great humanitarians, the cultural advancements of the Greek empire, scientific advancements that led to the creation of vaccines, and the introduction of evolution. But history also records the worst: diabolical leaders and serial killers, the holocaust, the slave trade, and global pandemics and famines.
Make a stand in your own country
Every country, of course, is going to record the events that are most relevant to its culture. Making America’s headlines this week is the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump, the insurrection on January 6, the rise of white nationalism, and more conflicting data about the spread of the coronavirus and vaccines.
(In Myanmar, its citizens are fighting the takeover of their government by a military coup.)
– And not to overstate the relevance, but we pay attention to these kinds of events and the people involved with them because they affect us. And so goes the rest of the world. For no matter where people reside they rely on their governments and their leaders to act in the best interests of the people. When they fail, the people are obligated to do something about it. The question is, what can we do about it? To which there is no easy answer. Because there are limits to what any man or woman can do to change their trajectory of their own country and its people.
Still we should try. We have opinions and we should express them. We have a voice and we should use it. We have bodies, and there are things we can physically do, even if moving just means taking a stand for what we believe in.
Getting back to history . . .
If we are going to make a stand it should be on the right side of history. And as mentioned above, history records the extremes. The events it records are quite often those diabolical periods that ushered in immense human suffering. Or to the contrary, those momentous times which uplifted and propelled humanity forward.
When we read through our newsfeeds these days, we certainly get the impression we are living in extraordinary times. In regard to our concern about the global pandemic, our views on what’s happening in politics, or our thoughts concerning all the other events happening in our communities; there are plenty of opportunities for us to express our views or to do some thing.
Determining what to do will always be a challenge. But making these determinations based on using right principles as a guide should not be.
It all comes down to whether or not we want to be on the right side of history. And history is far kinder to those who put the interests of others above their own selfish pursuits. More often than not, history elevates those who stood for equality, who fought for justice, who assisted those in need, and who sacrificed their time or even lives for others. History holds these individuals in high esteem, because they exemplified humanity’s greatest virtues. Virtues like, compassion, empathy, selflessness, sacrifice, integrity and the pursuit of truth.
No man or woman has control over whether or not their place in the annals of history will bear anything more than a thoughtful obituary. The nice thing to know is that this is not for us to worry about or pursue.
What’s important, is that each one of us makes an effort to make a difference in our own part of the world. With all that’s happening, you don’t want to place yourself on inactive duty and shirk your opportunity to make a difference. Take a stand and make a statement. At the very least, don’t let all the misinformation and hatred spewed on social media or in social circles go completely unchecked. Try not to fear the consequences, just err on the side of doing what is right and you will end up on the right side of history.
Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor:
“Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.”