November 2021: Holding History

“History” provides us with a story larger than the epic saga we make about ourselves (our identity).  Just as You as a being exist differently in your own and everyone else’s mind, history is not a monolithic truth. We do all sorts of things to get other people to know us as we know ourselves, and we similarly have a drive to make our historical understandings jive with one another. We tell stories to one another of good things, of horrible accidents, of people that have died, of mistakes. Like two bees processing nectar, we literally build each other’s identities through this process.

This month’s theme of “Holding History” suggests that history is something to be protected, but protected from what?  Like beer, when it comes to history and the current news cycle: consume responsibly. Beware of stories that tell half truths, outright falsehoods, or accidental misreadings.
We need to be very careful about how much filler material we add through artistic license to make a particular story gratifyingly complete. We close doors to a deeper understanding if we do not acknowledge what we do not yet know and what is simply unknowable. Like a good friend, we need to listen to the past and not just hear what we want to.
I am grateful to be living and learning at a time when there is so much juicy historical research being done – plus it is readily accessible via podcasts, online videos, and social media sites. Current research places a strong emphasis on understanding the lives of regular people and groups that were previously left out of the storyline. There is a focus on the social factors that precipitated the large events past histories excessively dwelled upon. As an added bonus, recent histories are written in a far more engaging and accessible narrative style. This more comprehensive historical perspective will be transformational within American society.  We need to grow our historical understanding and let it feed the reality we create for ourselves and with each other.   

Eric Studer, President
for the First Parish Board of Trustees