The experiences we hear and read about from a hundred years ago are stories told from biased perspectives. No matter how “true” they are, the facts filter through the lens of at least one person and probably dozens or even hundreds.  We no more “know” the life experiences of a hundred years ago than we “know” what it feels like to be a person of a different gender or a different color; we can only attempt to understand.  So, in a very real way, we have no knowledge of history but, rather, an impression of someone else’s interpretations of history.

It matters not whether we’re looking back one hundred or one thousand or fifty years. Interpretations and intervening experiences that color our recall cloud even our own memories. Misperceptions and judgments and analyses clog our body of knowledge, distorting our understanding.

The credibility of the story-teller is not the only concern, it’s the story-teller’s ability and willingness to scrape away as much interpretive skin from that body as possible, revealing the bare bones beneath. When we strip the body to the core, we distort the facts, again, with our own interpretations of reality.

All of this is to say we know nothing. We simply interpret experience and then we tell stories, which then are re-told, changing in some fashion in the re-telling. History isn’t fact, it’s an assessment of what we believe the world was like days or years or millenia earlier.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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