“The history of ideas is like a drama in many acts” – Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
I have always hated history back in high school. It was all ‘what year did this person do this thing’ – when did the war start and when did it end, who started it all, and where. The Filipino presidents and national heroes turned into something of an acquaintance, someone whose names I was familiar with, but whose stories I never knew, nor did I care to understand.
A lot of things have changed since then. In a span of four semesters in college, I have taken about five classes about history: Kasaysayan 1 (Philippine History); Theatre 160 (History of the Theater); Arkiyoloji 1 (Philippine Archaeology); Philosophy 10 (History of Philosophy); Global Studies 197 (Contemporary Islam). In these five classes, the same eras popped up, but all with a different story to tell. I began to love history.
What influenced me the most was the semester when I was taking Theatre 160 and Philosophy 10 at the same time. I took Theatre 160 every Tuesdays and Thursdays, while I had my Philosophy 10 every Wednesdays and Fridays. During the first few sessions of my Theatre 160 class, we had a quick overview of theatre history, from Ancient Greek times to the present era. During that same week, our professor explained the development of Philosophy, also starting with Ancient Greeks.
It fascinated me, how looking at history through another perspective absolutely changes the way they are being taught to others. My favorite example of this was our one session during Kas 1 wherein our professor just continuously debunked every lesson we were taught back in high school. We were taught lies, because until now, the Americans have an influence on the way we teach children Philippine history.
History went from being my dreaded written memory test, to a thrilling five-act play.
I began to see how overly dramatic people were before, especially during Ancient Roman times – with emperors creating monuments and having year-long celebrations. I pitied their greed, feared their power, and sympathized with the destruction they have brought on to themselves. I wondered what it felt like, to discover something so new and so different, to witness the whole world change their lifestyle because of one person’s inventions… or one man’s advocacy – of religion, of politics, of literature, of art.
It all seems so grand. It was impossible to imagine that all of it occurred in the same planet I am living in right now. I guess the human mind has yet to adapt to such a wide perception of humanity. If we were able to comprehend everything that has ever happened in every continent of this whole planet, we wouldn’t have a problem getting along.
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building process,” said Carl Sagan. And come to think of it, the same could be said about history.
I have been taught in my history classes that the history we know today is not a linear traditional novel. Some parts are purposely being kept hidden, and other parts are only being discovered today. And everything we are taught in our era today will not be the same thing we teach children in the future.
Some say we preserve the past as a warning to us today, to not repeat the same mistakes. But, there is no telling what the main goal of history is, as it is still being written as of this moment. People will always use history for their own personal agenda. But there will always be those who pursue it in all its forms, and those who continuously try to understand it.