The second in a series of three responses to The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.
It’s not that history needs to be made relevant, it is relevant. Or at least that is the argument I have been trying to make to people since they started inquiring about my choice of major. Inevitably, it is always followed up by the (usually concerned) question about what my plans are for after graduation. While I might not have an answer to that particular question yet, this book has provided me with the answer to the standard third question. Why is history relevant, you might ask? Because “he [Joseph] did not participate in its life thoughtlessly and unsuspectingly…for he knew its origins and history, was conscious of it as a historical entity…” and for my part I do not want to live life thoughtlessly and unsuspectingly. For me history is not merely a self-indulgent enjoyment of the past. It is also a sincere attempt to understand other people, how they lived, how they thought, and perhaps most importantly how what they did yesterday influences me today. That understanding in turn provides context for my life and for the world around me. It keeps at bay the urge to see things in a vacuum or as the result of a single action or moment. History allows me to reflect coherently and removes much of the unwelcome shock from reading the news in the morning. We are part of the historical process. It moves on whether we give it permission to or not. In choosing to be an active participant, one who is knowledgeable of what has come before, we take one of the most crucial steps towards become a fully realized person.