Tell your story. Tell that of others. Don’t be a writer. Be a Storyteller.
Consider a tombstone — a monument to one’s life…the inscription typically focuses on the years when a person was born and subsequently passed away, a person’s life is actually represented by the ‘dash’ in between (i.e., 1964-2042).
This dash represents the essence of our lives — the succession of joys, sorrows, successes, failures…If you could write the story of your dash, how would it read? Would it be full of regrets for the things you did or didn’t do? Or would it be a tribute to all that you attempted to do, be, and accomplish while you were alive?
– Anthony Paustian, writing in A Quarter Million Steps.
Find Your Purpose. Find Your Story.
History is not dry or boring. No, it rivals the best novels. Take Lars Brownworth’s Lost to the West, the rest of the story of the Roman Empire.
The empire didn’t end with the collapse of Rome, but endured for centuries in the East, centered in Constantinople. That’s no idle fact for impressing your friends. Without the Byzantine Empire, the West would have become a very different place, and no doubt unrecognizable to this day.
In spite of all the setbacks brought by war, plague, and tyranny, the West emerged while much of the world receded. Perhaps we should pay closer attention to their stories. Where would we be if there hadn’t been constant restarts of civilization? Yet, in darkness, people still triumphed. There are lessons in both for us to learn.
At the end of World War II, the Allies picked and chose which Nazis would prosecuted, and which would have their pasts scrubbed so their knowledge could be used in the coming Cold War.
And one of the most notorious Nazis vanished; his name virtually erased from history.
Hans Kammler was the personification of evil, having overseen the Final Solution. He also held the keys to every advanced technology program the Nazis had. The conflicting stories of his death never sounded credible. Even Martin Borman had been tried in absentia, but Kammler was forgotten.
After decades of investigation, Dean Reuter and his co-researchers have uncovered evidence that will have to be answered to. Yet, if I were to guess, The Hidden Nazi has only scratched the surface of what all has been hidden from us.
“Columbus has been alternately venerated and vilified…he became a lightning rod for controversy…[some] saw him as the visionary that led the way [to the Americas]. Others, preferring to believe that Columbus’s discoveries begat genocide against the New Worlds peaceful indigenous people, uniformly vilify him — as if he had orchestrated the atrocities himself or as if the indigenous tribes hadn’t already been waging war on one another…Still others invest themselves in the pointless argument that Columbus was not the New World’s discoverer…Columbus’s claim to fame isn’t that he got there first, it’s that he stayed.
“…History does not know what to make of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea without passions of one kind or another intruding. The explorer will always remain something of an enigma…He was a man of great charisma whose passion sometimes turned others against him…His advocates marveled at his daring and tenaciousness…His detractors thought him brutal and weak. The only certainty about Columbus is that, for better or worse, he chose to live a bold life rather than settle for mediocrity.” – Martin Dugard writing in The Last Voyage of Columbus.
Every Columbus Day people come out of the woodwork to correct what we were taught about Columbus. Then people correct them, and others correct them. It’s clear few of them have bothered to study the history of they day in any depth. So the quote above is meant to impart that actual history is far too complex to be learned from drive-by memes, or history lessons given by people with agendas.
If you want to speak about a person from our past, you should actually step into his world and follow him around. That’s why the study of history is like time travel. Step on in and give it a try.
Fan of the show The Curse of Oak Island? Randall Sullivan has released the definitive history of the island spanning from the original discovery of the “Money Pit,” to the latest efforts on the television show. Even if you watch the show, you know only a fraction of the island’s history. Sullivan explores the decades of digs, and the endless theories of who visited the island, including many fanciful tales whipped up in fertile imaginations. However, the island sits at a crossroads of the old seafarers, and many unexplained artifacts have been found. Who would go to such effort, and why, to hide something presumably a great value? Would gold warrant elaborate traps and tunnels? Was it already found or perhaps never there?
Maybe it will remain an unsolved mystery, or perhaps someday history will be changed.
One of my maxims is:
If you cannot defend the right of free speech for the person you disagree with the most, you don’t believe in free speech.
As this article from The Economist relates, free speech is under attack around the world. It’s not surprising to see this in dictatorial countries, but suppression of free speech is alive and well in democracies. Most disturbing is how it is tolerated — encouraged even — in the American university. The purpose of universities is twofold: Preserve and pass on knowledge and history to one generation to the next; and promote the free exchange of ideas and foster new knowledge. Instead:
Free speech is hard won and easily lost…[even] in mature democracies, support for free speech is ebbing, especially among the young, and outright hostility to it is growing. Nowhere is this more striking than in universities in the United States…and an incredible 10% approved of using violence to silence [speech].
I have been following the Death of the University, which itself is a sad situation of this great institution of western culture. Just as bad is the trend of silencing speech — often by the very people who claim to be for it.
This trend must be stopped dead in its tracks.
“It takes more than developing and deploying human enhancement technology to alleviate pain and suffering…We need the wisdom to know how to properly implement these technologies so humanity truly benefits…the wisdom we need must emerge out of a robust ethical framework that provides motivation to spur on advances…[while guarding] against injustices and human exploitation.” – Fazale Rana and Kenneth Samples
Emerging biotech such as gene editing and stem cell therapies show a lot of promise to alleviate and eliminate many medical conditions. As with all technologies, there can be a dark side, particularly when people with power take control.
A movement known as transhumanism wants to go beyond simply helping humanity, and seeks to transform us into a new species entirely. The road to such a future is paved with potholes such as eugenics and countless ethical issues.
No longer is any of this science-fiction. Nor can we look on in passive agreement at endless futuristic films that fail to deeply examine what they portray as an inevitable future.
The new book Humans 2.0 is a needed deep, intellectual discussion on this emerging reality of bioengineering and transhumanism. You will get a crash course on state-of-the-art molecular biology, and then authors look at the various philosophical streams vying to be the foundation of our bioethics: Which lead to a world where the value of human life is upheld, and which can lead to a reemergence to eugenics?
“Now, 50 years later, looking back on Apollo, it’s clear how that was probably the single most significant historical event in modern times, and it really shows us and the world what you can do if you work together and you work hard, keep to the plan, and plan your mission out step by step all the way to the moon. I wish we could do that today.
“I know the difficulty of doing anything in this huge government bureaucracy…But we still do incredible things. [The International Space Station is] the most complicated thing we’ve ever done, probably more complicated than going to the moon…We can still achieve things if we work hard at it and don’t change the plan, but part of the problem is we change the plan every four years.” – Astronaut Scott Kelly
Indeed, the reason why the Apollo missions were cut short (spacecraft for three more missions had already been built), and spaceflight has been a series of fitful starts and stops ever since, is because the government runs the show. Not visionaries who look past the next election cycle. Perhaps the private sector, which has made leaps in accessing space in recent years, will finally open the final frontier. Fifty years late, but better late than never.
In the documentary, Ultimate Mars Challenge, we learn of the cutting edge engineering that went into designing the Curiosity Mars rover. This shows us what we can accomplish, so why do we so often settle for less?
Why do we settle for archaic, inefficient combustion engines in our cars? Why do we accept claims that fusion energy is always fifty years away? I remember many years ago plans were made for humans to explore Mars in 2019, which seemed a long way in the future, and yet here we are. We brag about how much computing power we carry in our pockets, but what do we really use it for?
Why do we settle?