This blog post may be a little different from the ones I usually write. Mostly I write about science or writing or the environment. This time I want to get somewhat more philosophical than I usually do, and not about science or writing. This time I want to write about something that has been on my mind for many years: history.
This time I want to ask a few questions about history. Questions to which I don’t have the answers, though maybe you as a reader of this blog do have. Questions I’ve wanted to ask, but never found the proper venue. (Actually, this blog isn’t really the proper venue, but it’s all I’ve got.) Here goes.
What is history anyway? The dictionary defines it as a record, frequently in chronological order, of significant events that have occurred in the past, and that are important to us in the present, and sometimes with a description of the causes of those events. While that’s strictly true, that’s merely a description of what we see when we look at history. We see the people, places and events; we see the historical record; and we see the particulars that constitute history. What we don’t see is the underlying concept of history.
For example, does history exist automatically, or does it exist only if someone writes it down? That is to say, would there ever be history if someone didn’t write down all the events that have happened that make up history?
When did history begin? At the big bang? Or a millisecond after? Since history is a record of past events, then it certainly couldn’t exist from the beginning. But how soon after the beginning did history begin? A millisecond? A microsecond? A nanosecond? A year? Two years, three months and four days?
Will history ever stop? If it does, what happens then?
Is there a history of events that took place before the big bang?
Will there ever be a history of the universe after the universe is gone? All those stars and planets and galaxies and comets and asteroids and all the other stuff out there have their own history, but what happens to that history when they are all gone?
Will there ever be a history of history?
Do historians make history? Or do they simply record it? Is there a difference?
As I say, I don’t have the answers, but I can ask the questions. It’s interesting to cogitate on the questions, though, even without the answers.