Passion Portrait: Life is an Open Book

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

Desk Globe

I’ve never known my loving father to be without a book in hand. Or at least with a book close by. In particular, he’s always been passionate about reading history and biographies. These stories that make up the fabric of our human community; our collective story. His interest in the genre was first piqued early in high school, when from his grandfather’s vast library, he found an original account of the sinking of the Titanic. The details, descriptions and sheer drama of the event in its retelling had him hooked. That led to borrowing more of his grandfather’s books – on Teddy Roosevelt, European history, English history, geography, anything. And when he joined the service a few years later, he made it a habit of buying any books he could find, wherever he was. History, of course, but classic literature, too. He’d steal away in the little free-time military life lent him so that he could devour them.

BookBinding

This passion developed into a profession – after graduate school, he taught high school history and government for over 30 years…and is still teaching now in retirement. Today, I’m sharing his passion portrait, and three things he’s taught me about the importance of inspecting history – and why it holds such power for him.

1. Our history will never be complete. And that’s why you must keep reading.

History is innately incomplete and rarely objective. Of course, it may be penned by the victors, which can be obvious in its slant. It can also be written by the most careful of researchers decades or centuries later, and yet important subtleties and complexities will have been lost to the sands of time. But instead of being frustrated by possible inaccuracies and omissions, we should lean into them. Because only when we read as much as possible can we get the full view. It’s like a kind of game – how much of the puzzle can you fill in? As my dad says, “Nothing is represented as it happened. It’s fuzzy and messy. But the more you read, the more the picture comes into focus.”

glasses and book

2. Surprises await the curious mind.

So history will never be complete. But at the same time, more stories are coming to light all the time. Which can bring fascinating surprises if you have an open mind and know where to look. Recently, my dad told me a story about a book he read on Zebulon Pike and westward expansion. It had provided a much more nuanced account of the relations of trappers, traders and Native American tribes along the Mississippi River in post-Revolutionary America. Challenging the typical narrative of the time, this book showed that these parties changed alliances multiple times, so much so that there were no real “sides”. The speed and audacity with which agreements were broken was surprising. It seemed their behavior was based more on an individual’s business needs than anything else. It is a small, but surprising insight about how humanity is often driven by what’s good for someone right now. And when you learn a surprising nugget about our past, it makes you to wonder…what else don’t we know?

3. Be in the moment.

How can history teach you to be in the moment? Again, my dad –

“One thing you discover is that in every instance, multiple people had to make decisions. And those decisions always have consequences – some expected,  some unintended. So studying history makes you very aware of the cause-effect relationship. You take that awareness and can’t help but apply it to life. To examine the moment you are in. To be in it. And when you understand where you’re at, you yield to a certain openness.”

Reading hobby

I love that. To be open and truly alive in the moment. That is the way I hope to live. And Cider & Black is my way of working toward it. I’m so grateful for your life lessons and to share your passion, dad. And I’m so happy to give both to the world.

xoxo Jen