Despite the constant criticism, we should all be immensely thankful to be living in the present.
Like many Americans, I tend to find myself pondering over gratitude at this time of year. Whether that is sparked by the increased presence of friends and family, the Zen-like process of preparing a delicious shared meal, or merely an attempt to come up with something good to say at the Thanksgiving table, appreciation is on my mind. Of course, my mind goes first to the personal: my wife and daughter, my family in general, my loyal (and loud) chihuahua, my friends. Then come more general things like (relative) health, prosperity, happiness, and career success. But once I’ve bounced these more typical thoughts around my head for a bit, I continuously return to one broad idea: the glories of the present.
That may sound odd coming from a historian, but I feel it deeply. I adore the past about as much as it is possible to. My office is adorned with historical maps, posters, books, and tchotchkes. My favorite novels are in the public domain. I name houseplants after nineteenth-century British politicians (I’ve got Lords Balfour and Salisbury already). I could probably sink the Titanic (well, maybe the S.S. Minnow) with the number of history books I own. I have busts of both Napoleon and Wellington. I think about the Roman Empire every day.
But I firmly believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that today is the best possible time for a human to be alive. Not only is the 21st century an incredible time to be a member of homo sapiens, the past was far, far worse to live in than most people can imagine. Let us count the ways.Read More »