Recently, I have been listening to the podcast Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. This podcast examines–in great depth– historical events; everything from the Celtic Holocaust to World War I. It’s no easy listen, meaning that the episodes dedicated to breaking down World War I stretch into twenty plus hours of air time. This seems like a ridiculously long period of time to dedicate to just a few years of human history.
It’s so worth it.
I have found this podcast, specifically the episodes dedicated to World War I, to serve me as a person and as a writer.
Also, on a side note, listening while driving/commuting will cause you to feel productive and the time to fly by.
Most importantly, I have found myself growing ever more grateful for those who came before me; for my grandfather who fought in World War II, as well as for my great grandfather who fought on the western front during World War I. The loss of life was enormous, the conditions–hellish. Strangely, that might be an understatement. You would have to listen to the podcast to fully understand the extent of suffering present. To put it in perspective, more people died in the first month of World War I than in the entire Civil War. I’ll just leave it at that. Millions. Tens of millions by the end of the war.
I am slowly becoming more grateful for everything in my life, even something as simple as a sip of coffee or a breath of fresh air. It’s a process–a journey– but one I’m glad I’m on.
But I don’t point you to this podcast to solely have a better understanding of human suffering. In truth, this podcast is fantastic because it doesn’t focus solely on human suffering or troop movements. It looks at human stories, individual first-hand accounts. We get to see what these people were experiencing, what they were thinking, and how they reacted. It’s impossible not to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, how would I react? This is a path to a more grateful life: a more self-aware one as well.
For those of you interested in the more macro going ons of the war, you do get that with this podcast. Everything from world politics and armistice agreements, to troop movements.
“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” as Mark Twain is reputed to have said.
History is a catalyst to a new-found future, a future with echoes in the past. I have found that when examining history, my world grows. I am now privy to individuals with extremely compelling stories. My eyes are opened to horrific tragedies, moments of courage, impossible decisions, and so much more.
This is a greenhouse for creativity. What if I had a character like Winston Churchill? What would he do in a dystopian alternate-world fantasy plagued by limited resources? These are the types of questions a writer may ask themselves when they allow history to collide with their creative endeavors.
It is very easy to get stuck in a rut. Get up. Eat breakfast. Watch TV. Go to work. Eat dinner. Go to bed. But when looking at human history, you get to put a microscope to human behavior in some of the most horrifying and empowering scenarios. You get to ask tough questions that lead you down interesting paths. Now it’s up to you to write the bend in the road. Because remember, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. How will your work, your life, rhyme?