Via-Front Page Magazine
By Bruce Bawer
And so yet another year ends, and a new one begins. And at the instant when we exchange the old, crumpled calendar, crammed with activities once planned and now completed, for the freshly printed one, a map of a land yet to be discovered, we clink champagne glasses to toast the relentless, one-directional movement of time.
And even as we do so, somehow the momentousness of it all can remain impossible for us to grasp – except, perhaps, fleetingly. In an instant 2012 ends forever, and is succeeded by 2013, and for a few days or weeks the main thing is to remember to get the date right when you fill out a check. In the same way, once upon a time, 1776 ended. And 1492.
Somehow, dates seem more profound when they’re dates from long ago, before we were born. Strangely, moreover, while the years we’ve actually lived through can often blend together in our minds, to become something of a mishmash, the years of History, with a capital H, seem fixed, sharp, crystalline. All of which can help blind us to the fact that the years we’ve lived through will also one day be history (provided, of course, we manage not to destroy ourselves as a species). We’re living in history; we’re making history – or, at least, history is being made around us, by our fellow human beings, whether or not we choose to take part.
We’re living in history: it should be an obvious point. Yet in an age when so many people in the free, prosperous, and (supposedly) almost fully literate Western world are shockingly historyless – having little or no sense of what the world was like before they were born, and little or no understanding of how the world they live in came to be what it is, and, therefore, of how very much they owe to the past, and, thus, to the future – the point isn’t necessarily obvious at all. Today, so many of us live in an eternal present, in which ancient history can mean nothing more or less than last week’s Facebook postings.
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