My mind has been focused on a topic that doesn’t interest most people, that of the ancient world. I suppose most people don’t see it as all that relevant to their lives. But to me it is one of the most important things in the world. It’s about who we are, how we became this way, and what potential we have to be otherwise. Besides, it’s just fascinating. I can’t understand how anyone couldn’t be fascinated by it.
There is something truly strange about the ancient world. And it speaks to something truly strange about our present human nature and society. We have so little understanding of ourselves. We go about blindly, ignorant of our ignorance, like a bunch of busy ants who have no clue what they’re doing other than the narrowly focused activity of gathering food or moving a grain of sand. That is the human swarm, mostly mindless on the individual level and yet capable of great things as a collective, relationships upon relationships forming a networked whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Yet when we look back in time, it began at a much simpler level. It seems that a relatively small number of changes happened that made possible everything that followed. There is much speculation about what these changes were, what caused them, and what significance they had. But it still largely remains a mystery.
This is important. It’s not just academic curiosity. If we don’t come to terms with our past and the present that it has led to, we may not have a future as a civilization or even as a species. I don’t think that is an exaggeration. How we understand our past, accurately or not, will determine what choices we see and don’t see. So, by projecting our present mentality onto the past and hence into the future, we will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We will likely find ourselves unable to make the necessary changes for continued survival, as long as we don’t understand how humanity changed in the past.
I get the sense that few people genuinely believe that humans have much potential for being other than we presently are. You can see that in how people act, in their politics and their everyday lives. Most find it extremely difficult to imagine either a past that was or a future that might be radically different. It is simply incomprehensible to them.