History
    History in popular thought is the story of kings, of wars, of dates. To me it is how all people live and lived in all times and places. Hence, my broad definition includes what is usually segregated as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religious studies, art history, etc. My rationale is to aim for the broadest possible perspective or vantage point. Why? To know where we should direct our energy, time and resources, we need a firm grounding. We need to know how we came to be in the situation we presently find ourselves. We need to know that our cultural values evolved and continue to evolve, and that those of other cultures may differ fundamentally. To use a metaphor, I am like a painter, who wants to record nature, and so seeks the fullest range of colors. I want the fullest range of human behavioral understanding.
    This, ideally, helps us get along better. It can help us avoid repeating mistakes. We can observe trends, and work accordingly to forward or thwart them as we judge proper.
    History is as fascinating as it is useful. After all, is not human culture a logical study of humans? Our collective heritage grows greater each year; so does the richness of historical study. We begin with bones, fossils and archeology, then gradually access history proper, with recorded mythology and early writings. The contemporary historian can record living folklore, can analyze complex issues affecting the citizens, and can help us know where a given topic or movement is at one stage or another. For example, is it just beginning (like personal computer technology), or in its prime (like typewriters were about a decade ago), or has decay crept in (as with the concept of manifest destiny), has reform given a boost (as with women's rights), or what about wholly reincarnated phenomena (the organic farming movement)?
    History sheds light on all aspects of our lives. Everything we do has direct or indirect precedents, explaining its origin and development. I think a historically sensitive and schooled mind is especially valuable in these times of explosive social change. Too many of us don't fully or even adequately grasp our past and its importance. It was British governmental practices which caused the North American colonists to declare the United States of America an independent body. It was the history of two individuals uniting that resulted in you, and in me.
    History is distinctly human. Swallows and bears, trees and rocks, don't write their past, don't study trends, don't deliberate their futures based on previous records. Humans, of course, can choose as individuals to ignore the past, or to delve into researching it full time. Most of us choose an intermediate path. Although I majored in history at the University of Washington, I never did so with the intent of earning my living as a practicing historian. Curiously, much of my living does come from my knowledge of plant history. It gives me joy to ponder how we used and viewed plants in the past, and how other cultures use them presently. Such study proves the adage that "one man's junk is another's treasure." For some plants which are cursed as weeds by most of us, are valued as food plants by others.
    Never have I regretted my study of history. Of course, my "version" is so large that it might just as well be called "liberal arts" -- or at least "comparatively-studied cultures and literature" or something similar. A narrow sense of history might well have been oppressive to me. By narrow I refer to such silly things as memorizing the U.S. presidents, or the kings of England.

    One of the most influential, inspiring people in my life was Giovanni Costigan, a U.W. historian of liberal outlook and activism. His profound learning and impeccable eloquence made a lasting deep impression on me as a young man. I suppose in some degrees I hoped to be like him. Just like a little boy wants to become a professional sports player.
    An excellent overview of world history can be achieved by stamp collecting. If one carries this hobby to a serious development, the names of all countries, and the things they excel in, the state of their civilization, and nature of their government, is all reflected more or less. In my youth I collected stamps, and as a teenager contemplated a career in stamp-dealing. But somehow my interest faded, probably as a result of my growing fondness of nature.
    If history has a drawback, it may be that the more we learn and reflect, the less we are content with things going on now -- the more we want to, or feel compelled to, try improving matters. I often think my greatest good to society is not as a plant expert, but would be as a broad-minded governmental diplomat or officer. We need to place in positions of authority people who are best provided, through nature and education, to make prudent decisions. For me to research ornamental trees, then, is small use of my potential. Perhaps in time I'll come to the point where a major shift is made. The longer I wait, there's hope, the better trained and ready I'll be.