It is always advised to learn from the past. The past mistakes from us and from others teach us to be better people in the long run. But it is important to remember that while we look to the past for guidance, we must not dwell on those past experiences. As Francis Bacon wrote, “That which is past is gone, and irrevocable; and wise men have enough to do, with things present and to come; therefore they do but trifle with themselves, that labor in past matters.” Everyone has mistakes they’ve made in the past that they wish to correct. Despite this, there is almost nothing at all we can do to alter that past. Just as we can not change history, our own personal backgrounds are set in stone. The key is to take that and build off of it.
It is cowardly to only look behind you as you move forward. Fear of what is to come ties you to what has already happened. There is always hesitation moving forward, but that doesn’t mean we can dwell on what is past. It takes courage to venture into the unknown; the path is not necessarily unknown, however. Wise men take the past and use it as a lamp for the future. Just as Patrick Henry said, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.” When we study history, we know what steps we must take and which steps we must avoid. It is important to remember from whence we came. Every action done, every decision made has lead us to this exact moment. Even the poor choices and the missteps mean something. And more importantly they show us the way to a better future. Those who came before us died so we may live without their mistakes. It is disrespectful to ignore their struggles and simply learn it in our own. Move on from the past, but keep it in your mind. It will help you keep moving forward for years to come.
Everyone has heard the phrase “curiosity kills the cat”, yet we have also been told to question and search. It seems that we are once told to stick to the surface and again told to dig deeper. I believe that life truly requires a balance of both. There is always a time to inquire and a time to remain silent. Plutarch writes of this in his essay “Of Curiosity”. He describes how there are some people who think it is their place to know everyone’s business. They “cannot be satisfied unless they rake into the private and concealed evils of every family in the neighborhood.” People like this are rarely trusted and are seen as enemies rather than friends. There are matters that are meant to be kept private. “Without knocking at the door, it is great rudeness to enter another’s house,” as Plutarch puts it. Boundless curiosity is not only rude to the others around us, but is harmful to those who have it.
Despite this, there is a way to use curiosity in the proper setting. Plutarch proposes “to avoid the danger of this curiosity, divert thy thoughts to more safe and delightful enquiries.” Nature holds secrets that are meant to be analyzed. There are questions in life that need to be answered. If we direct any curiosity in those directions, it will not go to waste. Dig into ancient histories or books of principles and virtue. Seek to educate yourself on the things that matter. This will not be harmful. In fact, it is normally the opposite.
We cannot avoid curiosity in our lives. However, we can direct it towards the proper ends. There is nothing wrong with questions as long as they are focused on the proper issues. As we dive into knowledge, there is no limit. We should always strive towards understanding the world around us. Being inquisitive is not always a bad thing. We simply must learn where to direct our growing minds. This ability comes through maturity and education. Let us together push towards that perfect balance.
This Thursday marks the 243rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. One of the key phrases in it is “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”. While most Americans are able to quote this line with confidence, very few actually understand what it means. Thomas Jefferson knee the importance of the words he was writing and chose them very carefully. He writes that “all men” have these characteristics. Today, the phrase has somehow started to mean all Americans. However, this is not what he is saying. All men, no matter where they are born or what country they pledge allegiance to, have the natural rights to life, liberty, and property among many others. The Creator gave these rights to mankind, and we have no authority to deny anyone of them. We claim to want liberty for all, yet we don’t let them choose how they receive it. We claim to respect the life of others, yet we take it away without question or trial. We claim to want the best for every citizen of every country, yet we march in and take over without pause. Why do we not respect all men?
You can not force men to be free. When independence was declared, the convention did not require everyone to sign the document. States joined the union voluntarily. The Bills of Rights was written to ensure that the government didn’t over step their boundaries like the monarchy that proceeded them. Every step of the way, America upheld the natural rights of man. So why does it stop at our borders?
While we celebrate our nation’s independence and the liberty that severance allowed the founders to act upon, keep in mind the principles that lead our founding fathers to that point. We were created to be free, as all men were. Our rights do not come from the government and do not stop at our citizenship. We are independent. Let’s start recognizing what that truly means.