Joshua Shank – I’m a history nerd – I love reading about past events.
First, it’s just cool to read about the people who were so impactful that we still say their names centuries after their passing. Second, as George Hegel once said, “we learn from history that we do not learn from history.”
Taking lessons from the past, we can apply them to the present and ultimately benefit our future. I love how these lessons tie it all together!
In the fall of 2022, I paid a visit to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Harper’s Ferry is a village that is both peculiar and unforgettable. For example, the town is only accessible via walking or public transportation. There are no chain retailers or restaurants. The uphill and downhill climbs, winding roads, and period storefronts make the whole town feel like a preserved artifact.
Aside from the village’s unique history, what makes Harper’s Ferry famous is its location. The village sits right where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet.
The view, of course, is heavenly. West Virginia is such a beautiful place. But for me on that day, the highlight was hiking up the rocky, forested trail to Jefferson Rock.
The former president and founding father stood on said rock over 200 years ago and considered it worth a voyage across the Atlantic. That’s quite a testament to the view when you think about what such a voyage entailed back then.
While books are awesome, standing in that secluded spot made history come alive in ways that a book never could. In that moment while pondering life, I had a big realization: when you think about every event in history, what is the common thread? The planet Earth!
Please stick with me on this for a minute. Sure, you could argue that the common thread is humans, and you wouldn’t technically be wrong, unless you were talking about the days of the dinosaurs. But what has motivated humans throughout history? Wealth? Land? Resources? These all come from our planet.
Earth has been the backdrop for every big thing that’s ever happened to our species. Even when humans travel into space, it’s always with our beloved planet in the rearview.
What does this mean to us in 2022, 2023, and beyond? What can be taken away here?
We all know there are many reasons that preserving our planet is mission critical. But looking at the Earth through the lens of a history nerd, preserving our planet isn’t just about our future – it’s about our past.
And to revisit my opening paragraph, the lessons in our past are important, because without them, how could we ever prepare for our future?
Whether as a species or as an individual, learning from our mistakes is one of the most important things we can do.
As I learned while standing on those rocks, nothing connects us with our past like spending time in places where our past happened.
The more we protect and preserve these naturally beautiful spots of significance, the more we learn of and are better connected with who and what came before us.
So, may we start taking better care of our planet and never stop learning from our history. Because if we do that, perfect places like these will always be there for those who come after us.
Oh, and if you can visit Harper’s Ferry, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s one-of-a-kind.
Joshua Shank is a freelance writer and the manager of the Instagram blog @daily_histfigs. You can follow him there for more content.