I like to look backwards. I like older books. I like history. I like to spend hours on Ancestry. I like nostalgia. I tend to live in the past. I find it both scary and comforting that so much has come before me. Cather’s scenes about long gone Native American cliff dwellers in both The Professor’s House and The Song of the Lark make me think deeply about lives lived so long ago. And this passage from Let Go My Hand by Edward Docx gave me a similar shiver of revelation.
One of the things that Dad blames ‘it’ on is the sudden acceleration of human ‘progress’. Think about it, he used to say, invitingly, calmly: in ancient Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago – rough figures, rough figures – the fastest human communication could move was the speed of a horse, pigeon or sail; in the England of the 1820s, the situation was much the same…That’s 6,800 years (or three hundred-odd generations) of the same pace for everything. No change. (Not to mention Homo sapiens‘ one hundred and ninety-five thousand pre-civilization years.) And then (here he used to become more animated), in the withering flash of two hundred years, or a mere eight generations, we get…we get this. All of it. Modern Life.
I think about this too! Often in relation to cars, like, it’s weird how everything is set up for and around driving but it didn’t exist til 100 or so years ago…
It is hard to comprehend all of life that has come before us and all of life that will continue long after we are gone. If I dwell on it too much it really plays with the mind. Trying to imagine how our ancestors lived their daily life.
I can get a little squirrelly when I’m reading an old book and linger too long on the thought that the author knows nothing of what lies ahead. (War especially, in any era.) Modern Life indeed. A lot to be said for it, surely, and then…
On a different but related note, my husband and I volunteer on archaeological digs here in Maine. What comes out of the ground is stunning and makes me think hard about this landscape and how people have lived with it for ten thousand years. I do love the long view (keeps the short view firmly in its place).
Yes! Great food for thought. I used to think my grandparents generation saw the most dramatic changes (from early 1900’s-2000). Now it seems things are just getting faster each year and I wonder what unimaginable changes my children will see in their lifetimes.