Ecclesiastes 5-8

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom you ask this.”

Well, then.

Isn’t that something we hear an awful lot? Isn’t that something that is constantly getting thrown about? People are constantly evaluating “where we went wrong.”

I’ll be honest. I get tired of it. I get so tired of it. It’s such a waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the study of history is extremely important. I believe in looking at history with the explicit desire to learn from past mistakes is a worthy enterprise. If that’s what we were doing, I’d be all for it.

Neither am I saying that society is moving in a consistently positive direction. I think there have been sociological advancements, absolutely, but we’re getting an awful lot wrong on a pretty big scale, and in a lot of ways things seem to be falling apart.

But it trying to learn from history isn’t what we’re doing. We aren’t identifying a problem and tracing it back to find its sociological roots, attempting to identify the host of complex factors that contributed to the modern situation, and extrapolating potential ways to influence the path forward.

No. The practice is all too often one of identifying things that confuse or frighten, cultural practices that are changing in ways that make us uncomfortable, and looking back to a time when the matter at hand was perceived or practiced differently with a sense of wistful nostalgia to no real end beyond motivating our attempts to vilify the new while making no attempts to actually understand it.

Now. Those two practices are extremes. I don’t believe anyone is wholly virtuous or unbiased enough to truly manage the first, and very few people are actually as bad as the second. Consider them ends of a spectrum, with most people falling on the line between. Unfortunately, I think the media makes a lot of money off of dragging people back toward the nostalgia end. They get clicks by feeding on fear and uncertainty.

So just be careful where you focus your worldview. Don’t get hung up on a mythologized past. If there’s something about your world that you think is problem, maybe ask yourself instead what the path forward looks like.

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