“All that the historians give us are little oases in the desert of time, and we linger fondly in these, forgetting the vast tracks between one and another that were trodden by the weary generations of men.” — John Alfred Spender
One of the most fascinating (and frustrating) aspects of visiting historic sites, especially ancient ones, is the way time becomes telescoped into a deceptively small package. There is no real way to grasp the magnitude of centuries, even when careful excavation reveals a wealth of solid clues.
Still, most of us do linger fondly at these little oases, as Spender has noted. Why? Aside from their frequently beautiful physical appearance and appealing climate, I think there’s something unseen there that draws us in. As the guides spin their truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tales of civilizations beset by warring neighbors, epidemic disease and grisly cultural practices such as human sacrifice, we feel a bit happier with the modern world than we were before.
It’s interesting to wonder how future centuries (assuming the world as we know it stands that long) will describe our societies, and how history will judge us. From my admittedly limited perspective, though, I think Now has a lot going for it. I hope that our weary generations will occasionally pause to dance as we tread the vast tracks.