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25 February 2014

Groundhog Day Reflections

Why does history repeat itself when we all know why?  Why?  Conventional wisdom says that if we do not learn from history that it is bound to repeat itself.  The operative word here is learn.  It is not enough to know what happened, but also to know why and how it happened and most of all, figure out how not to let it happen again.  Now, that's learning.  It's also a tall order for us mere mortals when even gods cannot learn from their mistakes (and like humans, more often than not, others must follow after them, suffer the consequences and clean up their mess).  And, if we cannot learn from our own mistakes, how does one learn from others' mistakes?  After all, it was not we personally who invaded Afghanistan.  How can one learn from the Macedonians, the British, from the Russians, from anyone else?  Doesn't one have to learn that lesson by oneself?  And, after all, the circumstances are never exactly the same, so the mistake is never exactly the same and thus, history does not exactly repeat itself, right?  But, the question remains, will we eventually learn from the past and be better humans.

The late Harold Ramis grappled with this question in his very popular comedic movie Groundhog Day.  We may never know whether he meant for this film made for the masses was meant also to spur philosophical discussion, but we can all appreciate his skill, his knowledge, his people savvy and his carrying on of the Second City edict: "work at the top of one's intelligence."





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