The conversation this morning ran the gamut, but — as it’s wont to do — wove together nicely: history, writing, Japan, vacation, finding direction. It was all there.

I was talking with a friend about writing and how research plays into good writing. In that vein, she shared that she had earned her degree in history. She enjoys writing, too, and I remarked that her interest in history would inform her writing. I left out the fact that I had somehow gotten into an advanced placement American History class in high school and somehow managed to score a 1 on a scale of 5 on the final exam.

Why did they go left? Why did they go right? And most importantly, which fork leads to the cookies?

We talked further about history’s importance in why we do what we do — our traditions, our actions, our beliefs. From our mutual understanding of and experience in the Japanese culture, we recounted how their understanding the history behind tradition creates a connection┬áto the past.

Further, and applicable to our own culture, knowing why we carry forward certain traditions makes the tradition richer. It teaches us why we do what we do. If we don’t know why, we might do things in form only. And that’s never good.

When we know the why behind something, it can inform our decisions today, help us choose one thing over another. So, despite what Sting might say, history can teach us something.