“..Don’t put fire in the hands,
of the weak and faint, of the weak and frail.” – from some old song by The Mission UK
History is sexy. History is scary. History is strange, it can roar like a canon fired, it can softly purr like a baby tiger, but the one thing it truly is not, is ‘boring’.
If it’s ‘boring’ then either you aren’t reading it right, or it’s because you allowed others to teach it to you as a boring thing and you did not capture your birthright, the ability to make it come alive for you. But now is the hour that you take it back.
A growing theme floating in the “Blogsphere”, particularly the “manosphere” is the sentiment that things are falling appart, that to some degree “our civilization is falling”
An inchoate sentiment with some, with others a sharply defined and vivid understanding. A question to you, reading this, do you think our world is falling apart? Do you think that out civilization is crumbling, things are spinning out of control?
When I ask myself that question, well maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t, and maybe they are but this chaos around us will lead to an order.
Whether it’s an order you or I want to live in is another question, but consider this – perhaps this has all happened before..
I’m going to share something with you brief but that’s really incredibly powerful, if you flesh it out and do it, and do it well. It’s a secret that is so very simple, yet the powers of insight it can give you may seem almost occult. It was taught to me by a far more astute man than I could hope to be, and on learning it when reading older books I’ve noticed that the authors as well mention similar tricks in passing, or by subtle allusion.
Flat out, a careful study of literature and history will teach you more about seduction, persuasion, business, war, power and politics, than you could ever dream of. But you have to unlock it. And let’s look at how..
“In times of great change it might seem that there are no patterns to discern in the present and nothing to be learned from history. After all, events are unprecedented. But this is an illusion born out of our confusion. There have been other periods in history of comparable change and turmoil. In looking at them in depth we can see certain patterns-why most people succumb to the chaos but a few manage to rise to the top. Those who succeed generally follow the same simple path and adhere to a few basic strategic principles that are particularly relevant to revolutionary times.” – Robert Greene
There is a reason that many of the greatest statesmen, policymakers, intelligence officers and politicians, in the British Empire and America were historians, either by professional training, or intensely as ‘amateur’ hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Look, the ability to understand, to truly understand, history gives you access to incredible power if you can translate your understanding into action. Do not make the mistake of underestimating that sentiment, or dismissing it.
Aldous Huxley once stated: “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
One of the ancient poets of the Arabs said; “Read History as it is filled with morals, a nation will sink if it doesn’t know its annals.“
One of the best ways to understand people around you today is to become pretty well read in history. It exposes you to practical tools you can use to gain an edge in your personal life, and collective life in a world in which rapid change seems to cause everything to spin out of control.
Getting access to history, chronicles, annals, biographies, epics, will teach you many things. But only if you properly know how to read history. You can’t take it for granted you have to engage history.
1. Read with the realization that history isn’t what actually happened; history is what someone said happened. History is documentation, documentation of one or more perspectives on what happened, or was purported to have happened. All historians have agendas. This isn’t leftist cultural Marxist deconstructionist twaddle, people have been saying this for 2000 years at least, including people who wrote history themselves. Anyone with an ounce of sense realizes it on their own eventually, but the quicker you realize it for yourself the better off you are.
Don’t be lazy, interrogate history, like a witness to a crime that has a narrative, an account, getting her account is important, you don’t believe it or reject it, but you do need to get it and treat it for what it is – a witness’s report.
2. Read with one of the most powerful mental tools you have, your imagination. It’s as important as your reason, if you can’t reason you become an idiot, if you can’t imagine then you become blind. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
First, I’ll again point out, very powerful men in the past have considered history and biographies as critical branches of knowledge.
The ‘Arab Caliph al-Ma’mun, a man who ruled a territory greater than any Roman Emperor once said, in reply to one who condemned some branches of knowledge as being not learning;
“Some people may call a thing learning when it is not.. you should then begin with the most important thing then go to the less important, with the most certain thing then the less certain, with what is obligatory then with what is supererogatory; that will be a purposeful justice and a beautiful method. A wise man said, ‘I do not seek learning in the hope of reaching its goal and understanding its end, but rather in search for what one cannot afford to ignore.’ This is the meaning of what I have said.
Others said, ‘The learning necessary for kings is genealogy and history, that necessary for managers of war is the study of battles and biographies, and that necessary for merchants is writing and arithmetic. But to call something learning and forbid it without asking whether some of it may be useful is not right.”
We have powerful minds, and the imagination itself can actually be a faculty of knowing, a very useful tool. Our TV and video soaked culture to some degree steals tools from us, visionary and imaginative tools. Well steal them back, use your now media molded mind like a spy satellite or telescope, an active tool and not just a passive receiver. Not to the point of falling into daydreaming fancy, you can keep your practical sharp edge and still unwrap the tool of the imagination and use its incredible power.
Consider this for a little bit; many people don’t like history because they can’t get into it. It’s a series of dry facts and dates. No, it’s full of passion, excitement, betrayal, murder, sex, lust, dynamic human emotions simmering and then exploding like a volcano whose hour has come.
I mentioned a method, here is how, through the power of your imagination. You see, the only way that you can really understand history is to put yourself in it.
Others have said it better, in fact Winston Churchill (who was very much a historian) had some very useful words on this. Put yourself into the time frames you see mentioned and then try to personally relate it to you. This requires the active use of your imagination as a faculty. Give it a try, it’s a bit like having a theater in your mind.
See the streets, the mud, the rakes bawds and whores, the puritans churchmen and soldiers, see the Prophet on a hill, arms outstretched instructing the faithful, see the handshakes in the backrooms, see the poison being poured into the drink, see the killer lurking behind the curtains with dagger poised, see the furrowed brow of the sorrowing husband, plotting revenge while a rival lord is fucking his wife, see the sweat on the brow of the king as he mortgages over his kingdom to money lenders, see the men in Brooks Brothers sack suits sipping mint juleps as they scribble tactical manuvers on paper with a dulling pencil;
See this all, smell it all, vividly, let your mind daydream a bit as you read, then come back.
For example, if you read about the time frame between Charles I and Charles II then imagine yourself here, now.
Now imagine yourself thinking about 1985 in relation to you, that’s when Charles II died.
Now imagine yourself in 1930, in relation to you here and now. That’s basically like when Charles II was born.
Now imagine 1945, that’s Charles II’s father, Charles I, dying. Now imagine 1900. That was his birth.
Now imagine the vast social changes between 1900 and 1985, and between 1985 and you standing here, now.
Now imagine 1600 to 1685, the changes you just imagined today are comparable to the changes between back then.
You see, that is how you make a period come to life. How you make time frames and dates relevant.
Now fifty years ago was 1961. Most of the people reading this were not even alive, those who were alive that was a long time ago. When I was a kid “50 years ago” was world war 2. When my Dad was a kid, “50 years ago” was Wyyat Earp and Doc Holiday gunning down their rivals, and re-writing the history of that conflict.
Think about it, then do it, and make it work for you.
I’ll probably come back to this theme soon.