On the Past

by F.

“The future is here,” William Gibson famously said, “it’s just not distributed.” But what about the past? It turns out that the past is still here, too. It just hasn’t yet been replaced.

This is what Kevin Kelly said about the past:

Moving back into the past has never been easier. Citizens in developing countries can merely walk back to their villages, where they can live with age-old traditions, and limited choices…. We have the incredible opportunity to head into the past, but it is amazing how few people really want to live there.

In this podcast, Kelly gave a good example: if you want to go back to 19th century America, you can go live with the Amish. And, I might add, if you want to go back further in time, you can choose from Afghanistan, many parts of Africa, and (sadly) plenty of other places.

I thought about this when reading Scribbling the Cat. I can’t say I like the book much so far. I find it overwrought, both in form and substance. But I’m reading it at the same time I’m listening to Simon Callow’s interpretation of The Aeneid, which is astoundingly good. And some of the more horrific scenes in Scribbling the Cat reminded me of horrific scenes from The Aeneid (and The Illiad.)

Human barbarism is nothing knew, and we’ve certainly reduced its scope. But pockets remain—Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda—waiting to be replaced.