In Richard Dawkins book ‘The Selfish Gene’ he writes about how the person who is most successful is the person who studies history. And this is because you can only learn in two ways. You can learn through experience or you can learn from other peoples experience. Everyone wants to believe that their life is unique and special, and that might be the case but for the vast majority there is probably very little that the billions of other people who have walked on the earth haven’t gone through that you will. As a result of this, the person who studies history will no doubt get further ahead than the person who does not.
By studying the greats, you will expose yourself to ideas that have withstood the strains of time. By studying a philosopher who lived two thousand years ago, you can pinpoint the ideas that are still relevant today. Those ideas would arguably be the most insightful as they are still relevant after all this time. These ideas would be ideas that are not time-dependent, they are ideas that most people will most likely only learn after decades of making mistakes. Therefore it is imperative that a successful person become familiar with the history of the world.
Words and Ideas seem to be lost in today’s loud and obnoxious society. I believe it was Aristotle who said; “It is the sign of an educated mind, to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. If that is the case it would seem that we live in a highly uneducated society. Those who throw out new ideas are immediately shot down and ridiculed, and the side of the majority seems to always be against them. People have such emotional attachments to their thoughts and beliefs that anything that opposed that is deemed heretical.
This type of thing is most defiantly human nature and has occurred throughout history, but not on this scale. We live in a period of history where there have never been this many people on the planet and we have never been this connected. That ability to connect in such a huge collective way has lead to dogmatic thought and emotional instability. Actions and emotions are prioritised and words and ideas are ridiculed. Sigmund Freud coined the term ‘repetition compulsion’ to refer to the psychological phenomenon where a person repeats a traumatic experience over and over. The idea is that people do these things so often that it becomes a comfort. It explains why people who inflict self-harm continue to do so even though they feel shameful for doing so. It also explains the behaviour of people who continue to get into abusive relationships. It would also explain the urge to smoke in stressful situations. If a person is stressed and thinks a smoke will help relieve that stress, and they do this every-time they are stressed, then it becomes a comfort. They see the cigarette as being the only way to relieve themselves of stress and if they don’t smoke they become even more stressed.
I think that this repetition compulsion can be seen today with new ideas. People have become so accustomed to ridiculing anything that opposes their beliefs that it has reached a stage where when a new idea is introduced, people do not even try to understand what it means they just find comfort in shaming it. And if the idea happens to confirm their beliefs then they form an emotional attachment to it. This type of thing would be fine in the individual but it seems that a very large proportion of society is encapsulated in this behaviour.
History may not repeat itself, at least not in a technical way, but it certainly does rhythm. I believe, however, that by stating that history rhythms it objectifies our behaviour. What I mean by history rhythms, is that human behaviour rhythms. We constantly find ourselves doing things that we used to, whether it’s watching the same movies or eating the same dish at the same restaurant. This mostly is fine, but it starts becoming a problem when you continue to spend 4 hours a day on social media instead of studying or working. Or when you continue to lay in bed for an hour even after you wake up instead of doing something more productive.
I think that the argument that people should do whatever they feel is comfortable is complete nonsense, but it has been accepted as correct and just because there is a huge audience for it. People don’t want to hear that their behaviour is destructive or damaging to their health. But more often than not it is. Just because something is comfortable doesn’t mean its healthy.