Students of history, professional or amateur, would probably agree that the flow of mankind’s history may reasonably be illustrated by a metaphoric reference to a carousel, whose fixed course of travel is inexorable and unsurprising. Stated in theatrical terms, history, if one discounts differences in the specific venue of the presentation, and identity of cast members, portrayals of major historic events, would be similar, if not identical. We have stated in a somewhat related post, “Today is Yesterday Again,” despite differences in context, the repetitive nature of human events is predictably certain.

The rondo of historic events, as comprehended  by  societal observation,  has often been  expressed in such well- known phrases as, “There is  nothing new under the sun,” “History repeats itself,” “What goes around, comes around” “Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose” and, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.”

History’s wheel has mechanically delivered in turn, famine and plenty, conflict and reconciliation, war and peace, scientific advance and its opposition by superstition and religion, plague and recovery, bigotry and tolerance, periods of xenophobia as well as true brotherhood. In so many cases, one witnessed specific victims of bigotry and oppression at long last, granted justice and a measure of relief, only to observe another group or ethnicity then become the victims du jour. The carousel has rotated through hardship and relief, grievous troubles and joyful peace, respecting all mankind, at various times in history; the victors or victims may change, but the events, good and bad, are unmistakably replicated.

We would respectfully suggest that the eternally repetitive nature of man’s history, (other than his experience of natural phenomena over which he has no control) is causally attributable to the repetitive nature of his own natural persona, or inclinations, for good or bad, as discussed below.

We have attributed the main and fundamental cause of war to man’s thoughtless and repetitively selected, lessons of “we” and “they,” introduced to the child in early years. The taught disparate distinction soon leads to fantasy and myth-making concerning the “they” and, by degrees, ultimately, to hatred and warfare. The most instructive example is the cruel and tragic warfare engaged in between the Sunni and Shia Moslems. While there are far too many insane wars fought over differences of religious belief, this shameful and seemingly eternal war has persisted between members of the Islamic faith, against other members of that faith. This is the clearest and most probative example of the danger of early, [albeit well intentioned] lessons of “we” and “they,” which man persists in teaching his offspring. The basis of this conflict, is an ancient dispute in the Islamic community,  [ 7th century] as to whether the Prophet Mohammad should properly be succeeded by a blood relative (as in England), or democratically elected by the faithful. One group of disputants was the Shia, the other the Sunni. There can be no rational argument rationally proffered, that such 7th century issue is the [current] cause of the existing, all-out murderous war.  The cause, undoubtedly, resides in the early teachings of, [apparently, non- eradicable] lessons in “we” and “they.” There seems to be an enduring feature of man’s persona that persists in being tribal and xenophobic.  This feature has a prominent (negative) presence on the history carousel.

The neurotic side of man’s persona, also underlies tragedies arising from feelings of unrequited love, from avarice, inadequacy, excessive zeal and competitiveness, fear of change, including advancements in knowledge, the universal fear of mortality and search for solace in non-empirical sources, viz., religious or otherwise, loneliness and detachment, the need for recognition and belonging, desire for revenge, general insecurity and so many others. These constitute many of the underlying causes for tragic  failure and negative events we see played out inexorably, on the carousel of history. Positive features by contrast, would include: mature awareness and sensitivity, wisdom, intellectual prowess and achievement, honesty, successful social interaction, generosity, empathy and capacity for love.

These positive sides of man’s persona can be conversely, credited with positive results, such as, scientific achievements in medicine and health, cobbling together of complex  peace agreements, expressions of empathy and charity, artistic achievements in literature and the arts, advancements in the care and understanding of our ecology, as well as the nature of the planetary environment, the discovery of the functions of the brain, as well as psychiatry and mental illness, and  man’s kindness and nurturance of each other and of all species of terrestrial life.

We concede therefore, that the recognition of the “carousel” of man’s reoccurring history is instructive and useful, especially for predictability and weighing options that life seems to present.

However, for true “understanding” {as compared with mere predictability) of the life of man, past and present, we have always recommended the reading of great literature.  Great novels by outstanding authors, artistically and instructively, depict and examine mankind in the totality of such eternal life situations.  Great books are designated as such, because they depict the impact of man’s nuanced choices of action in his response to the eternal, rotating carousel of life experience.  More than merely observing the carousel’s (history’s) results, good literature furnishes context and useful perspective to life’s eternally  recurring events; and may well have the potential to be productive of that most rare and precious human commodity, wisdom.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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