I have often - many times every day in the greatest scheme of things - had cause to marvel at the complex diversity of the human psyche; whilst some choose to become doctors, others become soldiers; where some stand firm, others crumble; as sure as one needs coffee, another prefers tea and a third enjoys both, whilst a fourth avoids each of them. On a personal note, this marvellous reminder is triggered every time I get onto the subject of my research interests and academic background at large: sooner or later, at some point in the rivetting conversation, I shall play this "trump card". Most likely, I have just been asked what use my subject serves, why do I study such matters at all: besides such study asking and, just occasionally, answering important questions concerning all manner of things, including the evolution of the aforementioned human psyche in action, I always provide a much more personal, self-serving conclusion.
It is, of course, a great service that all historians and their related breathren bequeath to humanity: by scrutinizing the cause and effect of human actions over millenia stretching back to the advent of written records and far beyond, we are able among other things to fill in crucial gaps in the collective and individual self-consciousness of both ourselves and our ancestors. We can provide a clearer picture of how things used to be, give indications of what people used to think and feel and deign worthy of contemplation: 'the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there'. We can extrapolate that information and apply it to the world in which we live today, both sharpening the clarity with which we view our world in contrast to what has gone before and suggesting a tantalizing glimpse beyond, into the world of tomorrow, wherever the past seems still to speak to us, urgently, today: 'the past is a foreign country, therefore they do things the same'. So much more than merely a silly game of obscure dates coupled with grandstand events, the study of this collection of worlds, one leading into another, sometimes evidently, sometimes surprisingly, always captivatingly, lends us a firmer impression of who we are, of where we have come from, both physically and otherwise, and where we might be going. In my biased, self-serving mind, history is and always will be a living thing and to study it is to be alive.
This firmly held conviction leads me neatly to my (original) personal, self-serving conclusion; to my "trump card". We are all of us different, even as we are all - in some respects, varyingly important and inconsequential - the same. Whilst I drink tea and shun coffee as others do illness, the tea that I drink may differ to that enjoyed by other appreciators and my loathing of coffee may take a different size and proportion to that of other coffee-critics. This individuality stretches far beyond one's drink preferences, to encompass all other manner of predilections, in all other areas of life. A wise directive, appropriated by one particular public school in England to serve as its motto, reads 'find your passion'. As individuals, we are all motivated - in the main - by varying incentives: my particular passion happens to revolve, for whatever reasons (surely including, but not limited to, those mentioned above), around the subject of history and, to be more specific, to be more 'human', very old history especially. Studying such history and speaking of it with others - in short, indulging in my personal passion - lifts me up and brings forth heady happiness: it is much more effective than 'Red Bull'. In my more selfish moments (or simply, perhaps, when I am being most honest), I do not care especially whether others share my enthusiasm, nor even whether they consider my subject relevant, my passion worthy: their approval or otherwise does nothing to heighten or diminish my passion. In my more humanistic moods, when feeling altruistic, I care enough about my passion that I want to share it with others; I want to give others a glimpse of what I consider such a worthy pursuit and also, perhaps even more importantly, I want to demonstrate this personal philosophy that a person with a passion for something has the potential to make for a more contented person all round, regardless of whether that passion is a shared love of the Classics or of some other noble cause.
The pursuit of my passion has led me to some of my greatest experiences and to some of my happiest memories. My self-imposed challenge to my passion, in putting my studies on hold so that I could voyage off to see something else of the world of today, of yesterday and of tomorrow, has yielded the discovery of another passion, not necessarily in conflict with the first. In the action of travelling I have learned much concerning myself and concerning others, in a more direct yet not altogether removed manner from that which can be garnered from the study of history, as briefly explored above. Engaged in a passionate pastime once more, I have been able more easily to shoulder the burdens that the pursuit of this passion - in Vancouver especially - has foisted upon me. This has become a key realization over the course of this uncharacteristically short (and, I have little doubt, therefore all the more welcome) blog and explains to me how it is that I could sit down at the computer with one account in mind, only to draft out an entirely different entry. Clearly, now was the time for a little self-reflection to find its way onto the 'page' and in a manner that would challenge my recent complacency in viewing a particularly long entry as a "good" entry. My intended entry, concluding my (personal) experience of the Olympic Games, which included seeing so much passion, from so many different angles, represented individually and collectively, will have to wait until next time.
Best wishes to all!