Saturday, September 8, 2012

The vanity of the present

Saturday, September 8, 2012

History has been described as one damn thing after another. The remark can be seen as a warning against a pair or temptations but, duly warned, I shall cautiously flirt with both.  First, the historian is tempted to scour the past for patterns that repeat themselves; or at least, following Mark Twain, to seek reason and rhyme for everything.  This appetite for pattern affronts those who insist that, as Mark Twain will also be found to have said, 'History is usually a random, messy affair,' going nowhere and following no rules.  The second connected temptation is the vanity of the present: of seeing the past as aimed at our own time, as though the characters in history's play had nothing better to do with their lives than foreshadow us.

~ Richard Dawkins. The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. 2004


Arti said...

Profound!! Always love how Mark Twain puts things!! History is indeed a random and messy affair!

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