Post factum

Adopting a historical perspective is not so much about recovering the truth about the past than reducing the errors involved in the action of looking back.

The blessings and the curse of hindsight.

Things becomes much clearer when seen after they’ve occurred, after the fact. Yes, but what things?

The power of hindsight is the availability of evidence, the multiplication of points of view and time.

The driver and the witness are both key, but their points of view are restricted. Lots of dead angles. In fact, most of the 360 degrees are dead. Only a narrow band is live and active.

Post-factum-looking collects all the available points of view, constantly rebuilding the picture in the light of new evidence. But the picture keeps shifting because the frame keeps shifting. It’s not that the past is unrecoverable, but that the recovery is incomplete, always open to revision.

The end of the sentence keeps getting farther away from us.

And so we arrive at the curse. In hindsight, things always look different. History is different from what makes history what it is. We think of the past as that which has happened but in fact the past is what we can say about what has happened in the past. However, what happened a few minutes or centuries ago, remains bafflingly elusive. Some spend a lifetime trying to catch a glimpse of it, but even then, the conclusion is disappointing.

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