DAWN The Review, 2001
History As An Allegory
The individual may have been a part of the society once. Today the society is a group of individuals. At the opening of the 21st Century the focus has drastically shifted from the collective life to the individual.
Various factors have probably contributed to this situation. Maybe it was feminism, or computer technology or the information highway or all of them or none of them. But whatever the case, people living in each society are growing so different from each other that it is becoming harder to understand human beings in terms of national, ethnic, economic or religious grouping.
Those who are in tune with the latest development in ideas and technology already find it impossible to completely identify with any single nationality, ethnicity, class or religion. With the passage of time these boundaries will become more vague and then the only way to understand a human being would be to understand him or her in the context of his or her individuality. To understand those who are in tune with the latest development in ideas and technology there already is no other way.
History must offer something to every age. Its primary function is to explain the meaning of human life for each generation in a manner that makes sense to that generation. For an individual who refuses to be understood in any other context except that of her or his individuality a traditional approach to history is not enough. History must explain to us now the ways in which the people in the past enjoyed their individuality. Thus a humanistic approach to history is required to look beyond action, invention or even ideas. A history that is a study of the unique messages written on the souls of those who lived in the past. What Alexander achieved is nothing as compared to <why> he achieved it. What Aristotle wrote is less important today as compared to <why> he wrote it. Whether Helen of Troy existed or not is less significant now than the question, <Why> men wanted to believe that she existed?
History must increase people's options of the future by providing examples from the past. The shift from the collective life to the individual has also created confusion. As people free themselves from the traps set by the society upon them they are still in a great danger of falling victims either to their unconscious or to their instinct. While the unconscious is a dustbin of everything detestable about this world, the instinct takes us back to what is common between all humans and all animals. Those who wish to benefit from their individuality, rather than be destroyed by it, must turn to the appeal of a third force within them, a force that is higher than mind or instinct. This force is that irrepressible feeling of "I am," which is the ultimate reason why a human being does or says or thinks anything. The sense of being was present in each individual who ever existed. Simply because this sense, this will to exist, this life energy is the only possible explanation <why> anybody ever did or said or thought anything. It's the fountainhead of a human being's individuality.
The historian today must discover how people in the past cooped with their "I am." The celebrities in the historical gallery of fame are an invaluable resource of case studies. The way to begin is to sift through the load of surrounding information and choose those elements that help us define the individuality of a historical person. Not the elements that made him or her similar to others of the age, but those which marked the difference.
A history written with this approach will serve as an allegory in which each reader can find a mirror to his or her own self. The reason why Alexander conquered more than the world known to his contemporaries may be the same as why an introvert today discovers a little more of his or her soul than known to others. The reason why certain Greeks portrayed Helen of Troy differently than others could tell some people why they play their gender roles the way they do. And why Aristotle rearranged the entire bulk of human knowledge could explain to a teenage girl why she finds herself in disagreement with the rules set by her parents.
Histories written in the traditional manner could serve as a foundation block for the new historian. But while the ancient and recent historians have charted the realms of action and ideas the calling of the new historian is to reveal the secrets of the Self.