They say people study their past to learn from their mistakes in order not to repeat them again in the future. That is claimed to be the aim of historical studies. At the first sight it sounds like a brilliant idea. However, history is a very oblique and unreliable science. In fact, no one knows for sure how the things were going on then, not even that long ago. What is more amazing, the history tends to repeat itself constantly, whatever conclusions are being made throughout all the times. So, can we say that learning from one’s own mistakes does not really work? And what is the reason for the obliqueness of facts?
People are imperfect creatures and that explains everything. One of the backgrounds is that the only source of information is someone who participated or witnessed some events. But they tend to trust their memory that can never be totally sincere with them. What is memory, after all? In fact, it is the most unreliable source of information because people can only remember what they want to remember and what is more important – how they want to remember it. To my opinion that is a very curious fact of our psychology. For example, let’s compare the comprehension of the same fact by three different people.
One sunny day on the 19th of May at half past eleven in the morning, a pretty blond young woman was going down the Rynok Square in Lviv. She was wearing a red summer dress, a huge white hat with sunglasses under it, and behind her there was a tiny pocket Chihuahua running in a hurry, leashed to his mistress. An elderly lady was walking the other side of the square. Unwillingly she noticed the blond grace for her profession did not allow her not to. The elderly lady was wearing an elegant white dress with laces. She has made it by herself, as all her closes and the closes of many-many other people she had to deal with. Working here whole life as a dress-maker and being incredibly talented in her trade she could not walk past such an elegant dress, coloured red and designed with the fashionable at that time unequal length on each side.
Behind the lady in red there was a man. He also had a dog attached to him – a poodle, with black fur, a proud owner of his old and important family title. The owner himself was keen on his dog and the phenomena of dogs in general. He could not stop watching the tiny thing, its collar, the beautiful leash… That must have coasted the lady a lot of money! What a marvellous woman – so much care for her pure-bred pet!
At the same time, a photographer was making a lot of pictures of the city. He arrived from Krakow, where he lived and worked and where he received his commission for a tourist brochure from Lviv. In fact his day was rather unlucky this time – the plan was to make the pictures in the early morning light, with no people around. But his train was late and there was nothing left to do then just skip the breakfast and run as fast as he could to catch the final rays of the morning sun, before the heat and the crowds of tourist with all the pressure hit the city. Right now there were not many people around, still they bothered the photographer. But oh, this picture would fit. A graceful young lady walking on her black heals with her dog. Such a spirit of the city, like a tiny Paris! Wow, that would be a marvelous slogan… they would pay him an estate for that! His day is getting better, he will take her pictures and it would be finally time to have a cup of coffee.
When the dressmaker came to her work she could not hold herself from sharing the picture she had seen with her assistant.
“I’ve seen a brilliant dress today! A marvelous one! Can you imagine – all red, made of natural chiffon… – the lady stopped her story for a while as if concentrating on something more important. – The length: it reached the knees and was unequal everywhere. I think we are bound to try something new like that – it would be a splash!”
“And what were the shoes?”
“Oh, I was so impressed by the dress, that I haven’t noticed her feet! It must have been something open, because it was hot. Maybe those were some kind of white sandals, fitting to her white hat.”
Right after taking the pictures the photographer went to the closest café to have a coffee and full of excitement call his boss to tell him about his terrible day and the final godsend.
“Hey! You will not believe this! In spite of all my misfortunes this morning I have found something we were looking for! An elegant lady, with a girlish dog (you know those tiny ones that would fit into a pocket), sunglasses, high-heels – a real lady! I have seen her and thought about Paris at once. And… no, no just listen! I have a perfect slogan for our next tourist company – with a tremor of excitement and pompous look he pronounced – “Welcome to a little Paris!”
Now breathless he was waiting for the response.
“Ok, a lady, little Paris… was she rich?” – a serious voice inquired on the phone.
“Ehm, well how do I know?”
“What was she wearing for example, you idiot!”
Sweating and nervous, photographer tried to remember the look but was it either the heat or the severity of his boss’s voice but he had completely forgotten what the closes was.
“You know, I can’t really remember… But as soon as I print the pictures I will know …”
“Look here, if that was a designer dress and if, I repeat, if your photos are really good we could cooperate with that fashion house, and get more money. Do whatever you want but I need the label, the sooner – the better.”
The man with the poodle finally approached the park and the chilling shadow of the trees. There they were to meet his friend – a lonely single man with two lively spaniels.
“Good morning, how do you do?”
“Just fine, thanks. I am really impressed! I have seen a beautiful lady with a purest pedigree of Chihuahua. The dog was thin, tiny (as supposed to) with rusty-brown fur and….”
The voice of an obsessed man sounded in his friend’s had. But the lonely chap did not really listen to the story; he was upset with his recently divorced position.
“…. and the collar, oh it looked really elegant! You know….”
“Wait, and how did the woman look?”
Thus, everyone of three was impressed by the lady but no one could actually give an objective picture of what they have seen. And what if the colleges and friends would go on telling the story to other people – the picture of the woman with a dog might turn into a man with a cat. And that what we get in studding history – many subjective opinions, none of them 100% true to life. But maybe that is very it what makes history so mysterious and romantic.