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  • Retrograde

    10 Oct 2005

    Why is it that people so concern themselves with the past? Why do so many wish to return to the ways of their ancestors? If evolution is true, does this make sense? Are we not to be always moving forward, always seeking to improve upon the past rather than to return to it?

    I understand the study of the past, or history. It is said that in learning of the mistakes of the ancients we can avoid them ourselves, but I doubt this really works. Itís a nice theory, though. For myself, I know that I only rarely learn from the mistakes of others and profit most from the lessons of my own mistakes. It seems we do not learn much if we do not keenly feel the lesson. We learn not to touch hot things because of the pain inflicted when we do. We learn not to speak back to our parents by the punishment that follows.

    I suppose that the more hurried and full this world gets, and it seems so full because it has gotten so small (it would scarce take a day to travel to the other side of the world), the more we idealize the past. We long for a time when the world was no larger than our own sphere of movement, our own town or suburb, a place where people who were born also died. It is amazing to me that I can communicate with a person on the other side of the globe as easily as if they were sitting in front of me. Even as short a time as fifty years ago this was unheard of. In the sixties it was barely dreamed of.

    Perhaps this is why those who really know how their ancestors lived try to return to it.