Historical Imagination

While reading Sears and Cairns, I was particularly struck by the concept of historical imagination in chapter six. Historical imagination is described as essential to understanding our past as well as ourselves in the present while sociological imagination “allows us to understand not only the forces that shape our world, but also the potential for our own activity to change it” (Sears 144-146). To apply this to my own life, I can take a look at why I’m here at Parkside. I’m only at college because my beautiful, older sister attended Columbia of Chicago and graduated with honors. I was in no way motivated to go anywhere for a secondary education. It has taken me five years just to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I was younger, as I do today, I aimed to be just like her. I idolized her and still admire her very much. My admiration for my sister, even though it was not very evident years ago as we bickered and fought like sisters will do, made me want to further my education and become a more successful version of myself. I stopped going to Parkside for three years and in that time I saw her graduate and helped her party when she was done. I then realized the great amount of time I had wasted by not finishing what I had started. My parents had attended some university but never finished, as far as I know, and during my time in high school they crammed the idea of attending college so far down my throat I gagged. My sister was and is the only source of inspiration to have continued my education. Learning from her personal history, seeing her succeed, and seeing my own past and how it was stunting my intellectual growth led me to where I am today.

I can use the historical imagination to also understand who I am in regard to my relationship with my grandfather. The man drove a tank on Normandy Beach on D-Day in the Second World War, so I am convinced he is a war hero. This translated into his life as an incredible work ethic and the inability to sit still while knowing there was much to be done, not only around the house but in his community. As a kid I spent time with him constantly working on household projects or his time spent doing odd jobs for neighbors in need. Because he was trained by the military he became disciplined; because he was a disciplined man he became a methodical, well-organized husband/father/citizen; due to my time spent with him, I learned to do things right the first time and to the best of my ability. In a roundabout way, I owe my sense of duty and hard work to the instigators of WWII because my 18 year old ancestor was drafted and turned into one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.

Taking apart my everyday existence and looking deep into my past, as well as my family’s, has helped me understand who I am today and how/why I’ve gotten to where I am. It is interesting to know that the incredible events of the past that are so far removed from my own experiences and reality have shaped not only the world I live in but my own personality and how I view the world.

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4 thoughts on “Historical Imagination

  1. I think that the concept of historical imagination is extremely important in everyday life. It is a great tool to analyze ourselves and our lives, as you have pointed out. It is also important to our everyday learning. A lot of the things that we learn in college seem irrelevant to us in the present, but by using historical imagination, we can put ourselves in the time and circumstances that helped form and shape those ideas and access their deeper meaning.

  2. Can we say, then, that we are each just the result of history? Would you have been the same person – or even close – without your grandfather’s WWII experience and your sister’s college experience?

  3. i think it is pretty cool that you can look back and see how things have shaped you without even truely thinking about it. i think it is good to take a step back and see how the paths that you have taken have shaped the person that you are. My way of thinking is everything happens for a reason and although it may be unclear at the time life has a weird way of working out in different ways.

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