The objects in the mirror of history appear bigger than they are.
History is the world’s largest distorting lens. And the most powerful telescope. Looking back across the curvature of time and meaning, far into the roots of human experience. And the light that comes to us is as refracted as it is brilliant.
The power of hindsight is immensely underrated. Nothing acquires significance unless revisited, recalled, recorded.
What does it mean? Nothing, of course, until subjected to the backward glance.
To be human is to be reflective. To be reflective is to be historical.
Herodotus, the father of history, didn’t write his Histories as history, which didn’t mean much to him as a concept. Ἱστορία, Historía, the ancient Greek title of his work, really meant ‘inquiries’, explorations, research. That is, the light of the recorded past reflected, refracted through the lens of the subjective, inquisitive observer.
History as an intellectual pursuit was born as an exercise in distortion. By no means do I mean it disparagingly. It was born as an experiment in perspectivising. A foregrounding of ambient noise, the noise of the past, against the background of more noise. And as such, history knows no end, not because time is open – until it ceases to be -, but because it is refractable, open to endless possibilities of interpretation, forever reimagined and rediscoverable.
And what if each of us were the world’s greatest prism, throwing off light in a billion ways, illuminating our scene, ourselves and each other? Wouldn’t that be something?