Ever heard of historiography? It’s fascinating. Historiography is the study of the writing of history, and in particular, studying the historians who wrote the history and critically analyzing why they wrote what they wrote. The adage the victors write the history is especially visible when you look deeply into historical accounts.
I took a historiography class in college from my very favorite professor, Dr. David B. Miller. He had a huge influence on my college career, and I oten think of him, especially in these historic times. For some reason, he seemed to take a special interest in me (maybe because I loved history as much as he did) and often encouraged me to do more. He invited me to speak at a history conference where I presented my paper from his class and even recommended me for a museum director position in Deadwood. I took a lot of his classes and loved them and learned a lot in them all.
What I learned in historiography has followed me since the class. I read a lot of historical books, but always with an eye toward whatever bias the writer may have had when writing it. Their backgrounds, personal biases, cultural influences, and reasons for the writings come under scrutiny as I read. The events they record may have happened they way they write them, but the interpretation of those events is where opinions and slants come into play. Being a thoughtful and critical reader helps me in my search for the truth.
This close examination of writings spills over into what I read today. Whether it’s something I read on the internet, out of a book, or the Bible version I use, I always look at the source of the document and research what purpose may be behind its release. Misinformation abounds and sometimes it’s hard to tell truth from fiction, truth from propaganda, truth from lies. Using purposeful skepticism helps me to be a smart and well-informed person. That’s my aim, anyway.
I encourage everyone to develop a sense of historiographic scrutiny when reading. There are two or more sides to everything, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. You may have to push aside a lot of undergrowth to find the treasure of the truth, but it’ll be worth the effort.
I was at a art show in a park several years after I graduated from college and saw Dr. Miller from afar. He’d lost a lot of weight and was totally bald. I hardly recognized him, but his booming voice was the same. He was surrounded by a lot of people saying hello. I wanted to speak to him, but held back, thinking I’d catch him later when there weren’t so many around him. I never saw him again. He died soon after of a brain tumor. One my biggest regrets is that I didn’t push through the crowd and say hello one last time. I would have told him how much he’d influenced me.
Two lessons I am sharing today:
1. Don’t be like me and let a opportunity pass without grasping it because you never know whether it will come around again or not. Take the time and make the effort to lets others know how much they mean to you.
2, Search for the truth, not what you want to hear. Read for the truth, and not what you think. You can’t learn if you think you already know it all.
I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Ephesians 4:14 …that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…