Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


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Quick. Without resorting to Google or some other outside source, name ten famous people from the 11th Century. No? Then how about ten technological or cultural achievements from that time? Stumped again? Well, unless you're a real history buff, then don't feel bad about it. I consider myself fairly well-read on historical matters, yet I could only recall six famous people and four achievements from those years between AD 1001 and AD 1100 and, when I checked, I discovered that I was wrong about one of the people. (Thomas Beckett was 12th Century, not 11th.)

No, you shouldn't feel too bad about not knowing about these things. Most people don't. In fact, most people who were living at the time probably couldn't give you a complete answer, either. Remember that the vast majority of folks, back then, never traveled very far from their own little villages. There was no mass media, little communication from outside their communities, and no Wiki pages to explore. And, even if you lived back then and you did have Wikipedia, chances are pretty good that you couldn't read it anyway. Most people were illiterate.

Yep. It was damned difficult to be a world-wide celebrity in 1018 when compared to 2018. So what's the point?

Well, imagine that you are living in the year 3018. Would you, without assistance, be able to name ten people or ten achievements from the 21st century?

I doubt it. I think the chances are probably pretty good that most future folk will be fairly ignorant of who we are and what we have accomplished. And they won't even have a good excuse. Most, if not all, of them will be able to read. Even if some of them can't, there will still be more documentation of 21st Century events than there is for us when we look back to the 11th Century. A plethora of audio recordings, videos, motion pictures, and so on exist to document our lives for future generations, as compared to only a few dusty books, scrolls and tablets which inform us about life in the Middle Ages. There will probably even be an internet (or its 31st Century equivalent) available for our descendants' research.

The thing is, I just don't think they will care. After all, do you spend a lot (or any) of your time thinking about the 11th Century? And yet, you wouldn't be where you are today - you wouldn't even be who you are today - without our ancestors and the things they did.

"Thus passes the glory of the world." That's the translation of the Latin phrase which is the title of this thread. It's generally used to state the unfortunate truth that the people and things which seem so important to us now will, one day, fade into obscurity.

But there is another phrase that I like better. It is attributed to Isaac Newton, although others have said it before him (not surprisingly). It goes like this:

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."

Take care.
 
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It used to be that folks like me - folks whose knowledge base was very broad but not very deep, folks who knew a little bit about a lot of things - were more valued even than those specialists who knew a lot about one particular thing but were otherwise ignorant of everything else. However, we have been living in the Age of Specialization for quite some time now and, thanks to Google, folks like me aren't good for much anymore - other than being a Jeopardy contestant or a Trivial Pursuit player.

I still think there is value in knowing things without constantly having to look them up somewhere, but I suppose I'm in the minority on that score - and surrounded by folks who can answer any question more quickly and completely by consulting their smart-phones than I can by remembering the stuff I've learned.
 
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Thread starter #4
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Sorry. This post is here due to the fact that I hit the "reply" button instead of the "edit" button on my previous post, and I could not delete it. So I edited it all out and am writing this.

One of the things I'm not very knowledgeable about is how to use all these damned forum features.
 
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