Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #7

Greg Dening yet again.

Yes, imagination is an act of solidarity in our humanness. But there is a dilemma in that.  The humanness we share with the past is at the one time the same and different.  The most unhistorical thing we can do is to imagine that the past is us in funny clothes.  Our imagination has to allow us to experience what we share with the past and see difference at the same time…

…When we empower the past by returning it to itself, we empower our imagination to see ourselves.  Our certainties are our greatest enemy when we approach the past.  Hindsight is always blinding.  We know from our living experience that our present moments- this moment- has all the possibilities of the future still in it. None of us prescribes the reality we live in.  None of us controls the consequences of our actions.  None of us can predict with absolute certainty anybody else’s reaction tot he simplest gesture, the clearest sign, the most definite word.  But we have to cope with these ambivalences, interpreting these never- ending possibilities.  Hindsight, on the other hand, reduces all possibilities in the past to one.  Hindsight leaches out not all our uncertainties, but all the past’s uncertainties.  Hindsight closes down our imagination.  In hindsight we do not see the past as it actually was, only as it would have been if all its uncertainties were taken away.  Hindsight freezes the frame of every picture of the past.  Hindsight removes all the processes of living.  Makes the past our puppet.

From Empowering Imaginations 1998

2 responses to “Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #7

  1. This is just what I needed even though I do not lack inspiration at the moment. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. I wish some of our politicians would read this!

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