Saturday, February 15, 2014

Whispers From the Past

“The value of history is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society, but ourselves – a much more important thing; it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet rather than to foretell the future.”

Carl Becker, 1873-1945, U.S. historian

The title of my first book was inspired by a quote by Haruki Murakame from "Hear the Wind Sing." Having grown up in Kansas where the wind is incessant, it was a logical symbol for the sometimes random and unexplained events that affect our lives in ways we cannot control. By focusing on the lives of three women over three generations the book reveals the patterns of behavior that are passed from mother to daughter throughout the generations.

As the story unfolded, I became more intrigued by the repeating patterns of history and how the passage of time and cultural changes affect the way each generation reacts to similar circumstances. When I stumbled upon the quote by Carl Becker, I was inspired, in my new book, to look at the obvious similarities between the political and moral struggles during the turbulent years of the early 1960's as compared with those of a similar time in history one hundred years earlier.

Not content with a simple comparison, I wanted a more personal view of the moral and ethical decisions that drove some to commit heinous acts against of violence against their fellow man and others to place themselves in grave mortal danger to stand up against it. So I have placed my characters in situations where they must make a similar choice.

Most of us have at one time experienced a feeling of deja vu where we were overcome with the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, whether it has actually happened or not. It's as if a small voice from the past is whispering the reminder in our ear. I decided to use this phenomenon to create a historical conscience that would serve as a moral compass for the characters. It  provides a ghostly reminder that we have walked this path before in a different time and place.

The challenge is to leave enough question in the reader's mind to wonder whether we have actually learned anything from history or whether we are doomed to keep repeating it. Beyond the time periods addressed in the story, there are obvious comparisons to the politics and cultural struggles of the present time. Without pointing them out, I hope the reader will draw his or her own conclusions about the patterns revealed in the story. At the very least, it should make for some interesting conversations among those who read it.