As I write my columns, there is an age-old question that comes to mind from time to time. The question is, “Can history teach us anything?” Well, I am pleased to say the answer is yes, if we go back far enough and seek out those individuals who can teach us something worthwhile. These are people who have had their life’s work examined in the clear light of day, day after day, and on down through the ages.
In this respect, I would like to nominate Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian and moralist who has left his mark on history. In his day, when England had fallen into moral and social corruption, he said, “The downfall of England can only be remedied by a wise, strong, ruling class that is spiritually qualified to rule. The existing emphasis on temporal things – power for its own sake, money, pleasure, reform by law, popular suffrage, popular education, trust in machines – would have to give way to an emphasis on the eternal principles of obedience, reverence, veracity, sacrifice, the sacredness of work, the obligation of duty, and the eternal rightness of God-inspired authority.” He was quite a man and I encourage you to read about him when you can.
Thomas Carlyle was one of the literary geniuses of history and a positive thinker who had worked six long years on writing a book about the French Revolution. Finally, after years of struggle, he gave the finished manuscript to his friend, John Stuart Mill, and asked him to read it. It took Mill all of five days to read Carlyle’s book, which would later become one of his many classics of literary history.
The morning after completing his reading at his home, Mill came downstairs to find that the maid had thrown the precious manuscript into an open fire and destroyed it. Crushed, Mill went to tell his friend that his work of six years was gone. “That’s all right, Mill,” Carlyle said sadly. “Those things happen. It’s part of life. I’ll start over.” When John Stuart Mill left, Carlyle turned to his wife and said, “Well, my manuscript is gone, so I’d better start writing again.” Of course the rest is history.
Here is the point that I hope to bring into very clear focus for you today. There is no doubt about it, this was a very bitter and disappointing experience, even for the likes of Thomas Carlyle, but it did not let it dominate him. He put the experience behind him and pressed forward. This is how a positive thinker handles problems -- even problems that appear to be insurmountable at the time.
Unless you can see how this experience can help you overcome some of your problems and press on toward your goals, then I have wasted some of your precious time. I hope this is not the case. We all have problems, and we can let them get us down or we can use some of that positive, God-inspired, thinking to rise above them. The simple words, “I’ll start over” may be exactly what you need to think about today. I know this true story about Thomas Carlyle has inspired me. It is just another small example that history, indeed, can teach us something. It makes me even more determined to do what I have set out to do.
As I begin to wind down this column, regardless of what your problems or needs might be, simply take stock of yourself and say, “I’ll start over.” To me, there is almost magic in those words. You can never completely defeat someone who always says, “I’ll start over” when they experience a setback or disappointing loss. The one who has determination is the one who succeeds and becomes a real winner in the game of life. And personal best wishes from me.