Way Back When?
There is no one past. There are countless pasts. Mine. Yours. The billions, or at least millions, of people who were alive at any given moment. The great, great majority of them never meeting or even knowing of each other, having no discernible influence on each other. Humans can be worldly, but never really universal. Whose past is prolog to whom?
Yet even the shared pasts are contested. Because the past is no different than the present in at least one important aspect: it is experienced subjectively. Like the classic Akira Kurosawa film Roshomon, or the countless sitcom shows that borrowed its premise for a chicanery-riddled episode of mutual misunderstanding, there is no one version. Each person had their own. Their own vantage point, their own experiences, their own filters and agendas, their own limits and baggage, their own abilities and inabilities to understand what they see, feel, hear, and hear of. And even under the most favorable circumstances, every person does what every person must do: interpret.
The past is not a foreign country; it is lost worlds. We can never inhabit it; we can only imagine it. Historians cannot bring you to the past; they can only reconstruct it. And so no one can ever really know the past. Trust me. You can’t even really remember it. All you can do is shroud yourself in the visions historians concoct for you in an act of informed faith.
“The Impossibility Of History”, Akim Reinhardt, 3 Quarks Daily