21. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
It brings to my mind a similar quote made in Ecclesiastes:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
Human nature is the same today as it was yesterday. If you read the ancient myths and text from centuries before our time you find the exact same motives: greed, lust, anger, revenge. Mankind has behaved the same since the dawn of creation.
Sherlock Holmes made a similar observation in A Study in Scarlet.
Sherlock Holmes approached the body, and, kneeling down, examined it intently. “You are sure that there is no wound?” he asked, pointing to numerous gouts and splashes of blood which lay all round.
“Positive!” cried both detectives.
“Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second individual— presumably the murderer, if murder has been committed. It reminds me of the circumstances attendant on the death of Van Jansen, in Utrecht, in the year ’34. Do you remember the case, Gregson?”
“Read it up—you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.”
Mistakes are made, often they are the same mistakes because as people we have the same faults as our ancestors did. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson learned battle strategy by studying Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, and Hannibal of Carthage, he watched to see where they failed and improved on their methods.
History tells us the stories of men throughout time, the struggles they’ve hand, the mountains they’ve climbed, the victories they’ve won. Also the mistakes they’ve made. Often great men have started out well but fail when they reach their peak.
I’ve heard it said before that “A wise man learns from his own mistakes, it’s a complete idiot who doesn’t learn from the mistakes of others.”
I have met some farmers who have found advice from their grandparents and great-grandparents, in the journals that had been kept over the years. Some of my favorite books are the stories written by James Herriot, it is surprising how many of the difficulties farmers faced around WWII are the same as we do now.
We have more written history at our disposal than any other time, go to a library, go online, read about the men and women of history and how they failed and succeeded.