Heritage is an important thing. While casting away the burdens of your history can be liberating, I would argue that it is vital to understand where you came from in order to build a better future for yourself and the generations that follow. Growing up in a white middle class household undoubtedly afforded me a comfortable lifestyle that I had done nothing to earn, but I do my best to never forget that the people who came before me did not have it so easy, and their hard work and resolve is what afforded me my circumstances. I would be doing them an injustice to throw it away by doing nothing with my life.
While much of my family history is vague beyond the recent past, there is one line of relations that has been established with striking clarity. Down at least one branch of my family tree I am English throughout. My distant relations and their distant relations were all southerners and they worked what must have been grim jobs as agricultural laborers. Of course, this shifted significantly around the time of the industrial revolution when many of them moved to bigger places and established themselves in jobs that were probably twice as grim. This much is true for all of the family I have been told about, and it is what set the chain of events that mean I get to be alive today in motion.
The past carries a power that very few things hold, and in this vast and confusing universe the past is one of the most grounding things that exists. The past has a weight to it because it is certain, the past is written, and the ink is dry. It offers a sense of identity that you could not acquire if you simply drifted through life with no knowledge of history. Of course, building identity from the past isn’t always good, and it is arguably what has led to some of the worst disasters in human history. The bastardisation of the past for selfish means is something we see almost daily in the news and on television. But, the power to look at the past with nothing censored and with a full knowledge of the good and the bad within it is what enables it to be the best tool to improve the world around us.
There is a reason why many people have expressed the sentiment that knowledge of the past enables you to predict the future. Humanity is a stickler for routine and we are creatures of habit, even if these habits take centuries to manifest, or if the routine is one that lasts decades. However, while the past may be set in stone, the future is not, and if you have the power to predict the future then you surely have the power to change it. All of these sentiments are not just true for society as a whole, but on a personal level as well. That is the true power of the past and of heritage, it can build nations and indicate the direction of world powers, but it can also enable each of us to better ourselves and learn from the mistakes of days gone by.
I would argue it is essential to embrace the past, accept all of it no matter how horrible some of it may be, and then find strength within it. Use it as a tool that not only illuminates the worst of your errors, but also shines a light on the best course of action to take. It has been said that only a foolish man forgets the past, and it has become abundantly clear to me that if you do forget the past you’re losing the chance to be a stronger person. Taming the beasts of the past and defeating whichever devils rest on your shoulders is a sure fire way to be happier and stronger. That isn’t to say it is an easy task, and it is not a smooth road to take, but understanding the lessons of the past is one of the biggest factors in ensuring that the future is always a bright prospect.