Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How do we see the past? And the Present?

Why is it that we diligently examine the many sides of an issue, when it is about the present, and overlook the ambiguities equally well, when it is about the past?
Let me elaborate.
The golden days of our past’ is an expression,
We hear often,
Wherever we make a mention of time,
Beyond recollection
How do we see the past?
Imagine reading the morning newspaper, a couple of centuries from today. Let us say there is a column with the title “Three Hundred Years Ago”, which, on that day carried the news item of people being slaughtered for vague reasons, like ‘looking greedily at a cow’.
What do the readers do?
The first reaction from the readers would have been to label that era, say as cow age, and enumerate various characteristics of the times. Like the popularity of cow-milk, and its products. And, the imaginative use of all types of rejected matter originating from the cow. Also, the proliferation of institutions of rest, relaxation, and recuperation, dedicated exclusively to cows.  Perhaps the presence of paintings and sculptures depicting similar looking creatures would also act as proofs. This period of ancient history could become a favorite area for research, and many scholarly articles would have been adorning the current literature.
Without thinking any further, I can say that the above-mentioned description of the future is quite fitting and is highly probable. The opinion we make these days about the ancient days, especially those extolling the wonders of the glorious past, is not much different from this. To make this point a little more clear, think of the occasions, where we take efforts to pen down something. Primarily, all those occasions are those, where, something did happen out of the ordinary.
(I think it is also generally acknowledged that we are moved, more by unpleasant events than by the pleasant ones, since, all good events lose its shine soon. Thus, even though the future will find much evidence of buildings, roads, dams, and other signs of civilized life, those people are likely to be moved significantly by the traces of extraordinary sights, which are today in abundance. The theory of diminishing marginal utility comes to our aid in understanding and appreciating such phenomena better)
What am I getting at?
Our history weaved from the surviving bits of memorabilia of the past need not point to anything concrete. The inscriptions, documents or other remnants of the past we have succeeded to unearth, which we think of as authoritative sources, could be as misleading as the newspaper that was mentioned above. All that is recorded in various historical documents of the past would only be showing us, the local non-uniformities present in a society, or events and occurences that can be termed as exceptions. Regular, routine affaies of that era would hardly find mention, one may say.
To better understand the above-mentioned imbroglio, let us see what would have been found in the remnants of the present times if examined many years later. And what would have been the conclusion drawn thereafter?
What do we find?
I think the most prominent find would have been the news items, which are widely seen, remarked and repeated. Incidents like Lewinsky affair, demonetisation, certain cartoons, suicidal missions, or various anti-science movements could feature here. Plenty of scandals, ill-treatment of the female sex on a global scale, and other undesirable elements of society would have been proliferating, whatever the form of memorabilia one landed with. When contrasted with the signs of space travel, organ transplant, or sub-atomic journeys, quite a bit puzzled, would have been the reaction from every reader. With such confusion all around, a conclusion that our times was the ‘age of the irrational’, seems to be the most likely result.
Supporting such a find, interesting and incredulous news snippets would fall from the repository of old papers, every moment if they are to pursue the past. Also, the remnants of the statues and buildings of gigantic proportions and the tracks left by various god-men will add to it.
We know how misplaced, such an assessment is going to be. Well, something similar is happening now. Looking at the relics of our past, we are always reaching the conclusion that our ancestors were geniuses. Moreover, we are molding ourselves to see golden tinge in whatever they did. We also overlook the fact that, in that process, we do not mind bringing great harm to ourselves, at least as long as it is harming others more.
What all can this lead to, is anybody's guess.
Why can’t we see the ‘golden tinged’ pieces as nothing but the only things that stood out? Shouldn’t it lead us to the thought that the natural proclivity of those people was to things insignificant (rather, the things that we think as insignificant today), and a few streaks of brilliance took place to hold the future generations enamored?
(I have examined the reasons for this dichotomy, that is, our desire to be rational to the core, when it comes to real things, and our penchant for the irrational, everywhere else. https://hubpages.com/education/realandtheabstract)

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