Alternately titled: The Universe is NOT Subtle
I picked up Michael Crichton’s Timeline on Saturday; I’d caught a bit of the movie on the SciFi channel when I was surfing the other day, and it reminded me how much I LOVED the book (the film, however, was a huge disappointment; don’t bother). I’m reading some pretty heavy material right now – I’m in the middle of two books dealing with war and war crimes at the moment – so I thought I’d revisit this really fun tale of quantum travel.
Seventy-three pages into it, I came to this passage:
He had a term for people like this; temporal provincials – people who were ignorant of the past, and proud of it.
Temporal provincials were convinced that the present was the only time that mattered, and that anything that had occurred earlier could be safely ignored. The modern world was compelling and new, and the past had no bearing on it. Studying history was as pointless as learning Morse code, or how to drive a horse-drawn wagon. And the medieval period – all those knights in clanking armor and ladies in gowns and pointy hats – was so obviously irrelevant as to be beneath consideration.
Yet the truth was that the modern world was invented in the Middle Ages. Everything from the legal system, to nation-states, to reliance on technology, to the concept of romantic love had first been established in medieval times. These stockbrokers owed the very notion of a market economy to the Middle Ages, and if they didn’t know that, then they didn’t know the basic facts of who they were*: why they did what they did, where they had come from.
Professor Johnston onften said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.
I’m bringing this passage in to class today.