Monday, January 23, 2012

Return to Sender

It's such a simple phenomena. Been around since dirt. But it's oh so true. It has lots of names, some fancy, some academic, some right to the point. Let's see, predictable, indicators, and past performance all fit into the equation. Dr. Phil, in all his prime time glory is fond of saying, "We teach people how to treat us." Certainly do.
The great historian Mircea Eliade called it "The Myth of the Eternal Return." AKA...what goes around comes back. Native Americans built much of their culture on the cyclical nature of all experience. Four seasons, four directions, four quarters or quadrants. The Daily Racing Form and it's advocates swear by knowledge of the past. If it happened once, chances are it will happen again. It's true, often the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.
I can't leave out police detectives from this discussion. For every one of those, "Gee, he or she was the last person I'd ever suspect of having a double life. Always so nice, never seemed to argue with family members, kept the house neat and tidy, I'm dumbfounded" statements you hear on the nightly news, there is a past history just waiting to glint in the sunlight.
If we apply this principle to the current political scene it explains much. Why wonder about the current use of unethical or racist sentiment when it's all laid out if one would only look over the shoulder and into the past. There is a very good likelihood that similar sentiments are just waiting to be re-discovered.
But people forget. They choose to forget, and when they avail themselves of denial in the process, they can have it their way every time.
I see this in my work as a teacher and now as a teacher of teachers. People lug their satchel of old worn out excuses and projections along for the ride. They re-run the narrative. I remember being on the brink of a new relationship once and having to listen to a phone conversation between my new interest and someone she was trying to let down easy. Even though I was hearing the words I longed to hear, it was most uncomfortable. I was old enough to know that the dialogue, the reasoning would probably apply to me some day. While not always exactly the same, the future is more often than not dictated by the past.
So what's the message? Don't ignore the past...absolutely, but more than that, learn it.

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