Imagine living in a world where human life is little esteemed, where no-one talks about ethical behaviour, where the human and animal are the only types of energy, where travel is slow and dangerous, where everyone looks exactly like you and the limits of available knowledge are very limited indeed. It’s hard to imagine living in such a world. If it wasn’t for history and education, we wouldn’t even know such worlds existed, that the past was home to such societies.
Every age has its own set of inconceivables. These are caused by the fact that each culture swims in its own waters, and it’s not enough for someone to just look around to understand where they really are, what they’re swimming in, and what lies beyond the sea, if anything.
That everyone and everything has a past is axiomatically true, but it’s not the same as saying that everyone knows their past. Most past remains unknown, whether personal or not. Saving takes energy, and more often than not we like to save energy than to dispense it on knowing the past.
The cultures of the past, too, couldn’t conceive of the things we take for granted in our time. They are not to blame for that. However, we are too blame for our lack of sensitivity towards the past, our indifference to it and avowed lack of understanding. The future can’t be conceived of, but the past can.