It’s always a weird feeling when my long-held views about how the world works are set ever-so-slightly askew. It makes me wonder what else I’ve taken for granted that, well, shouldn’t be taken on faith.
That strange sensation happened yet again today when I was watching a documentary about the dark ages. This was a really well made documentary, and it gave you a strong sense of what it must have felt like to live during this period. Between wars and plagues and ignorance, it is astounding that anyone survived with the strength and perseverance to procreate and make our existence possible.
But what really shook me to my foundations was that these people were living on the crumbling ruins of cultures that came before them that were more sophisticated, educated, and healthy. They were living in tiny parts of large, crumbling, once thriving cities. They could tell that the people of the past had more knowledge than they possessed, whether it be in the realm of science, engineering or medicine. They had to know that it used to be there, and now it was gone. Just watching the Roman aqueducts crumble around them while they got their water from fetid pools must have driven them to despair.
Here’s where my foundation crumbles. My whole life I’ve lived quite comfortably with the “fact” that progress is inevitable. I have felt safe in the knowledge that in the future we will have made even more medical breakthroughs, will have invented even more things that will make our lives easier, and that we will move steadily forward.