Every generation believes it is the first to have found love. To know what it is like to breath in and taste the modern world. But as my mother taught me long ago, everyone who has ever lived has been ‘a modern’. On the field of emotions and feelings and experiences nothing is, in fact, new just that we use different technologies to gain a similar effect.
We can delight that mountaineers can talk to their families from high up on their climbs, but yodeling was invented centuries ago, pan pipes have been in existence for generations and both enable communication when ordinary speech would not suffice. Yes a mobile phone is different, and yet it is somewhat the same.
The feeling of finding out something new, that eureka moment, is the same across continents and eras; the freshness of new clothes is the same despite new materials or designs; the feeling of attainment does not change whether it is a struggle to buy a trading vessel to cross a sea or a car to cross a continent. So much of what we experience has been experienced before.
That is why to dismiss reading about past generations blinds us, and limits our connectivity to who we actually are. The young boy longing to cross the Mediterranean to visit his father station in a Roman garrison in North Africa, is a longing inside every child for travel, parents and adventure. By seeing what tyranny was three thousand years ago, we can recognise it today. By knowing what moved people into nations five thousand years ago we can see it evolving in front of our eyes today.
No one can fool you, once you have learned from history what a fool is.