Today, our schools, and society at large, should be discussing essential social concepts that provide a background, foundation and historic context of the landscape in our country. I would like to address three imperative concepts: appreciation of history; interpretation of truth and fact; and understanding of the criterion of beauty and its social application.
APPRECIATION OF HISTORY
Many students of history ask an essential question: “What is a practical application of history?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer because history is not simply a recording of facts and events; nor is it merely a logical classification of data in chronological order. History is the development and evolution of mankind from the past through present and to future. History forms a picture of what has happened to mankind from its origins to the present moment.
History is functional in as much as it allows us to understand our relationship with the past and to other societies and cultures. History reveals a pattern of a nation’s emergence and growth. It gives us facts and allow us to search for underlying causes of historic events. It is also poetic, in the sense that we all have an inborn curiosity and sense of wonder about the past.
The 20th century saw occupants of planet Earth come to know more about each other than ever before. But it also witnessed genocide, holocaust and mass destruction.
But what do the politics of the past matter to modern men and women in the 21st century? What relevance have Tsar Nicholas II, Woodrow Wilson, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Winston Churchill to modern concerns? Nowadays it is fashionable in many circles to deny that there is any intrinsic value in historical study. Yet, whenever statesmen, administrators, educators, politicians or journalists wish to convince the public of the rightness of their actions, they appeal to history. It is important, therefore, how history is written and who writes it. We need reliable and accurate guides to the past.
The past could be viewed as a foreign country or different culture. The attitudes and behavior of historical figures are often alien to the present generation. On the other hand, we should remember that the past was also peopled with foreigners — in the sense that most people lived in closely-knit national, regional or even tribal communities — with access to much less information about events and conditions elsewhere in the globe than we have today. To these people, the world outside their communities often looked exotic and strange. At one level, this distance from foreigners could give a romantic zeal for exploration; at another, it could encourage xenophobic resentment and murderous hatred.
The 20th century saw the occupants of the planet Earth come to know more about each other than ever before. But it also witnessed genocide, holocaust and mass destruction. It is important, therefore, that we understand how these two contradictory developments came about in the historic context.
INTERPRETATION OF TRUTH AND FACT
The crucial distinction is not the difference between fact and fiction, but the distinction between fact and truth. Fact can exist without human intelligence or interference (e.g., gravity, speed of light, or other natural laws of physics), but truth cannot.
I don’t think truth exist in any significant or objective way. Reality is not about truth, but about the relationship of facts to one another. Indeed, modern journalists should rely and base their observations and reporting on facts, not on an abstract and often fabricated “truth” and manipulation of data, as it is extensively evident in our country today.
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UNDERSTANDING BEAUTY AND ITS SOCIAL APPLICATION
The concept and criterion of beauty is subjective to every individual — for some, the color blue is beautiful – for others green. I enjoy classical music. Heavy metal gives me a headache. This is why in America we exercise a freedom of individual choice and individual appreciation of beauty. Beauty is not a group phenomenon. Thus, for example, no government policy can make me prefer the color green to blue.
The world may be beautiful or it may be dismal to us. It depends on the view we take or the way we look at things. We may see beauty in everything. We may see beauty in a truckload of wood that is just being unloaded at our door. Others may just see a dirty load of logs – lacking in beauty. But on the other side, it makes our house warm and cozy, and we appreciate this source of beauty, even in the truckload of wood.
In short, the appreciation of beauty is the ability to see the good and beautiful in the objects which on the surface may not appear attractive. It is important, therefore, that we cultivate this ability to see in other people qualities buried beneath the surface of what we may think is an “unattractive individual.” Beauty is present in every color, race, physical shape, and nationality.
The views expressed here are those of the author.