Crises are always wake-up calls. When misfortune strikes, we suddenly realise nothing is truly secure, nothing permanent, nothing guaranteed. As we rush to shelter, any shelter, we know things are at their most fragile, and in need of safeguarding.
History is a safe passage granted across the crevasses of time, a corridor right through the warzone of human existence.
The documented past doesn’t exist in a state of nature. It is acquired, moulded, carved, and preserved. Human culture has come into its possession quite late in the game, and it has always known how impermanent, though valuable, it is. Thousands of years can be extinguished in a single shot. It has happened many times before. What we’ve inherited, if anything, are centuries of loss and silence. Fragments of parchment floating around like the fallout of an airstrike. Dust mixed with letters and words, the incoherent voices of the past saved by threadbare memory. We try to read but the phrases are broken. The words are missing, still floating around, orphaned, pushing away from each other, inconclusive. As we scramble to gather the crumbs, we understand that we may never be able to bring the voices back.
While the threads still hold, the memory is kept alive. And we’re still able to find our way through the undergrowth, and understand where we’re going and why.