“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” –William Faulkner
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The angel of history,…his face…turned toward the past, is propelled into the future by the storm we call progress.” –William Benjamin
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” –Martin Luther King
These insights about the power and invisible laws of history are what drew me into the study of the past. I believed that the knowledge of history was a skeleton key for unlocking secrets to greater peace, justice, and beauty in the world. That fantasy got extinguished in graduate school. The more knowledge I gained, the less credible this notion became. In time, I learned to lower my expectations, and I settled on the belief–or at least a desire–that history could provide widened horizons of connection and possibility, helping us get out of the narrow perspective of our now. I came to doubt any “use” of history, in the sense of thinking about it instrumentally. I prefer now to recommend history to my own students as an intellectual orientation, a daily practice, but not something they should try to “use” to achieve a goal.
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen,”Nietzsche’s Quarrel with History, ” Hedgehog Review (Summer 2022), 16.
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