We come from somewhere. So do our problems, and so must our solutions. To paraphrase Walter Brueggemann, keeping us imprisoned in the eternal now is one of the oldest tricks in the book for teaching learned helplessness. The loss of history and myth — the stories that tell us who we are, where we come from, and how to live — cuts deeply indeed.
Another consolation of history is perspective. We can put our problems in context without surrendering to relativism or apathy. Rather than arguing about whose challenges are biggest or most urgent, we can put our own challenges in order and set to work on them.
From perspective and prioritization come agency. When we know how things got this way, how they relate to other challenges across time, and how they relate to each other, we can begin working to make them better. Just as productivity isn’t always effectiveness, flailing isn’t the same as agency.