Like the other pages in our mood section, this page intends to lend perspective, stoke curiosity, and serve you when you’re in the mood to think about life. Go through these pages, and you’ll learn fascinating things along the way.
One such medium of perspective is human history.
It’s easy to forget, especially in Western cultures where there is so much consideration on the individual, that we are a product of immense history.
Our cultures, traditions, language, and therefore even the way we think is a product of a vast interpersonal evolution. Over the millennia, our species has grown elaborately. We’ve adorned ourselves with an active prefrontal cortex. We’ve adorned ourselves with industry, tools, and processes beyond our comprehension.
This is the world we live in every day. And we take it for granted.
**One of our favorite takes on history we’ve found online is by Crash Course. Their courses are phenomenally produced, well-researched, hilarious, and deeply insightful/educational. And they’re all free! A couple are embedded below, and if you’re inclined to learn about history with them, check out their course on World History and Big History.
Ancient Conceptions of ‘Happiness’
Where are we, without history?
As a science, psychology can sometimes end up echoing wisdoms of tradition, philosophy, and even religion. Research gives us the opportunity to both confirm and/or correct the notions of well-being that carry through history.
You can see a list of more modern, research-led models in psychology here. For now, let’s take a glance at a dozen ancient Greek thinkers and their ideas about the ‘good life.’
As you read them, consider what jumps out to you as either biases/fallacies or timeless grains of truth.
- Homer’s heroes – Wealth, physical health and attractiveness, strength of character, courage, justice, generosity, and piety
- Hesiod – Flourishing and prosperous communities populated by honest people, living in peace, and enjoying the fruits of their labor, with an absence of worries and disease
- Pythagoras – The unobservable harmony within an unobservable entity, which is the immortal soul
- Heraclitus – Maximization of desire satisfaction is neither necessary nor sufficient for the good life
- Empedocles – A transmigrating soul-like daimon within each individual that ultimately experiences a current good or bad life and accumulated credits
- Protagoras – Features depend on individual preferences
- Antiphon – Careful and accurate observations of nature, thinking “correctly” about what causes “distress” and “joy,” and generally following nature’s guides to a long and pleasant life
- Democritus – Unobservable orderly and harmonious atomic activity
- Plato – External goods like wealth and goods of the body like health are important, but goods of the mind like moral virtue are even more important
- Iamblichus – Trust and law-abidingness for good human relations
- Aristotle – Living well and doing well. It is achieved insofar as one deliberately engages in the unimpeded excellent exercise of one’s capacities for the sake of doing what is fine, excellent, or noble, provided that the deliberation and activities are undertaken from a virtuous character and accompanied by an appropriate amount of external goods and pleasure
- Epicurus – Pleasure, as consisting of a healthy body, peace of mind, and moral virtue
*This list was adapted from Michalos and Robinson 2012.
The following are some fun infographics from across the web. Click each one to see a larger version, or follow the link to view their original source.
History and Science
- Worldometers – A stacked collection of world stats updating in real-time.
- Technology in Deep Time: How it Evolved Alongside Us – By the BBC
- World Births and Deaths
- Can History Predict the Future? – A historian believes he has discovered iron laws that predict the rise and fall of societies. He has bad news.
- Was There a Civilization on Earth Before Humans? – A look at the available evidence from The Atlantic.
- Newly Discovered Mass Extinction Event Triggered the Dawn of the Dinosaurs – A fascinating look at a new theory being researched.
- A Brief, 20,000-year History of Timekeeping – A fascinating overview of how humanity has refined the science of keeping time.
On the Changing Values of Culture
- Changing Morals – We’re more compassionate than 100 years ago, but more judgmental too.
- Evolutionary Ethics – A study and report on how values change over time.
- How Executives Change Culture – An interesting looks at the strategies of CFO’s to shape company culture.
- Culture Change – A Wikipedia article showing ways that cultural norms can change.
- Changing Culture Starts with Changing Behavior – Another look at organizations as hubs of culture, and how elements of culture are managed.
- An incredible collection of history in the form of 90 cover stories from Time magazine.
- The American Brain – Really, this is an article about how values change in the world. Fantastic as always, from Wait But Why.
- Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell applies his world-class authorship to interesting takes on history
- Hardcore History – Dan Carlin gives history lessons that cut through the myths and misconceptions
- The Memory Palace – Excellent storytelling about the past.
- In Our Time – BBC’s enticing look at historical events and how they relate to the present.
- Revolutions – What can’t we learn from them? Luckily, there’s a podcast about them!
- Stuff You Missed in History Class – Join Holly and Tracy as they bring you the greatest and strangest Stuff You Missed In History Class in this podcast by iHeartRadio.
- Why Nations Succeed and Fail: Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – This book (and audio summary) examines history’s most turbulent economic and political periods to reveal why the times ahead will likely be radically different from those we’ve experienced in our lifetimes—but similar to those that have happened many times before.
- Crash Course – Maybe the greatest youtube channel in existence. 🙂 We’re partial to it.
- The History Channel – Like watching the history channel, but you can choose not to watch the garbage!
- Alternate History Hub – What if (insert major historical event here) never happened?
- Simple History – Fun and easy animated accounts of history.
- Oversimplified – Good for overviews and big pictures of historical events.
- History Buffs – Fun and campy animated history lessons.
- Timeline – A collection of long, detailed documentaries about history.
- 58 Years Ago – A quick blurb from Seth Godin about a time not too long past.
- Cowbird – A collection of exceptional stories of human life. Over 88,000 stories on 28k topics, from 14k authors in 186 countries.
- Explained Netflix Series – Not history, per se, but insightful looks into our historical moment of technology.
- Cartographies of Time – A wonderful and diverse collection of visual historical timelines.
- Horizontal History – A deeply insightful (as always) perspective on history and human lifespan.
- The History Channel – Now decades-burdened with sensational TV editing and production, History still has some quality content, some of which is free online.
- Ancient Earth Globe – See how the continents appeared on Earth’s surface at different points in the past in this interactive web app.
A humorous and detached account of history
A video summary of the book The Fourth Turning, which predicts human history in 4 20-year cycles.
See the formation of countries year by year.
An interesting idea to shift how we look at history.
The world we live in seems normal for a human. Actually, it’s anything but that.
If we were only recommending one book here, this would be it. Also check out this detailed article from the New Yorker that explores Harari’s big-picture thoughts following this book and Homo Deus (below).
On Our Future