For ten years now, on September 11 somebody always quotes Burke: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” I, for one, am glad for the reminder. Even those of us who do know a little history are quick to forget the details. And the wisdom usually comes from the details.
Having been on the planet for over half a century, I’ve got my own history. Some of it, I’d like to forget. Interestingly, it’s that exact stuff that seems to have cemented itself to my memory—probably because I was taught by it.
Right now, as I write this, the forefront of my brain is flooded with faces and places covering five decades. Time heals, thankfully, but it’s weird: recollecting formative events brings to mind specific details: everything from rooms and roads, to radicals and reprobates. The more frightful the occasion, the more vivid is the memory. I cannot forget. I dare not forget. Most of my street smarts are welcome additions to my repertoire, but they didn’t come without a price.
Life’s “history lessons” are many and varied. I’ve learned through second-hand study, and first-hand familiarity; I’ve experienced worldly sorrow, and godly sorrow. I’ve gone to the school of hard knocks (even got held back a few times). I have scars on me, from head to toe—inclusive (literally). As much as I wish I could disengage my memory, that’s not how God designed us. We are to forgive offenses, but not forget the lessons.
So: all those faces and places swimming around in my head can settle back down; short of a frontal lobotomy, they’re here to stay. The important thing is not to bring them out to play.