Commentators writing about today’s events inevitably have a different perspective than historians. One is about the impact on the present and the way it shapes the future. It is a helpful point it time but it ultimately misses the broader perspective of context, the role others play, and a measured view about the outcomes that emerged as the sum of the collective choice.
As I try to put context two everything that is going on around me, I realized I am confused. Am I a commentator or a historian? Am I willing to reflect, consider, and see things in a broader context or is all about the present? I aspire to be the historian knowing that I am trapped in a commentator’s body. Everything around me is reacting to the immediate. My plea, silently and at times tangibly in a scream, is along the following line; “Don’t dump me, God; my God, don’t stand me up.” (Psalm 38.21)
While I do not think I will ever be a pure historian, I know there are things I can do to give me greater perspective. They include the following.
Turn off and disconnect from the flood of data, images, and information. My tangible step is turning off the blackberry, leaving the iPhone in the other room, and ensuring the TV stays dark. My focus and concentrations turns to the conversation at hand and the invitation to reflect in quietness and solitude.
When I hear or read something that triggers anger, frustration, or confusion, I aspire to stop. Whatever needs to happen, the three emotions are an indicator that time is not the most important factor. Each emotion calls for greater context, reflection, and considered response.
Action is not the only alternative when deadlines approach with uncertainty, conflict, and errors. Our stories can only be told in context of the greater story we are a part of. Reflection, dialogue, and taking steps towards something better often trump the crisis du jour.
I know I am a commentator. I also know I have a lot to learn from historians.