I once had a multi-hour argument on the difference between the ideas of “History” and “The Past”. As usual, I have no idea what I was arguing about or what point Sean was trying to make, but I interpret History as a description of The Past, where The Past is the set of all possible true Histories. Circular definitions are fun.
History := partial description of The Past
The Past := set of all possible Histories
History as a word is most commonly used to describe the common set of descriptions about The Past. For the purposes of brevity, we’ll call these descriptions Statements.
History := a collection of Statements regarding The Past
The Past := set of all possible Statements
If you had a burning desire to know about The Past, you would subsequently want to collect as complete a set of Statements as possible. Seems pretty obvious, but formal logic tends to end up that way. You spend all this time and energy to derive something you already knew. And of course that’s assuming your axioms were true in the first place. On the other hand, it looks nice.
Where was I going with this? Oh yes, historical censorship. Any writer that doesn’t lie is a historian of sorts. They document a thought or a moment, and people days or years later can relive that thought through words. The more words, the clearer the picture. And conversely, the fewer the words, the fuzzier the picture.
I recently read a letter I wrote to my grandmother when I was in the 8th grade. Written most of the way through my first year of public school, I wrote in great detail about the “great day” I had just had. Apparently I was in gym and impressed the girls at badminton, and someone whom I remember had great hair commented “Man, he can do math, he can play sports, what CAN’T he do?” This justifiably made me very happy. However, later in the day I asked a girl I fancied out to what would end up becoming my very first date, and there existed perhaps a superfluous number of exclamation points after the section detailing her immediate afirmative answer.
If I didn’t want anyone to know about that day, I never would have written it down. If my mother had never wanted me to remember what it was like to be barely 14, she never would have left the letter sitting on my dresser when I came to visit. If I was really that embaressed, I never would have brought it up.
The enjoyment of reading that letter is probably what made me start writing again. What I write, I’m able to remember. What I don’t write is quite easier to forget. Of course, what I don’t write you will never even know existed. That can sometimes be a wonderful and tragic thing.
You. Yeah, you. Go write something. Read it later. It’s fun.