By Lana Turnbull
Perspective is everything. A whole day can be ruined by one irritating mishap if we let it be the center of our focus. One mistake can predict a life of failure if we forget to take into account our successes. A particularly toxic national political climate can be construed as the end of freedom as we know it. Or not. It is all a matter of perspective.
The tough thing about living in the current moment is that is so…present. The 24-hour reality of today can be completely overwhelming if taken at face value without the instruction of what came before it. As humans, we have several millennia of history to consider. A look back just might help us realize that for all the division, animosity and cruelty of human behavior and discourse today, there really have been times, even in our own short history as a nation, that were worse.
I particularly enjoyed the lesson taught by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham in his latest book The Soul of America, reviewed in this issue. He lovingly holds up a mirror to the nation’s past low points and reveals them warts and all as a reminder that the good old days are never really as good as we remember and our current experience isn’t nearly as bad as it seems.
It turns out that every time America has gone through traumatic periods of unrest, violence and despair, we have clawed our way out of them kicking and screaming only to find we have made a few more baby steps in our journey towards a “more perfect union.”
Each era of history is like a tiny grain of sand. Under a microscope it might look like the whole world, but when we pull back our focus it is just a moment in the ever-changing story of our future. As creatures of free will we have the capacity to change, and when we listen to Lincoln’s “better angels,” our direction is usually one that leans toward progress. The secret is taking the long view and remembering that this too shall pass.