Trapped In Our Modernity

Dropping down into Marlow today, from the Maidenhead side of the Thames, and then climbing back up again heading towards Henley, once more I was struck by the geography of the area. In places the Thames is running in a steeply sided – picturesque – valley that you’re just not that aware of as a driver.

Dog lazily looking out of a car window

Well, I’m in touch with my surroundings.

Once you’re out of a motor vehicle you become much more aware of the lie of the land. You wouldn’t have to go back that many years to enter an era when everyone must have been much more alive to their surroundings; when surroundings would have been far more of a barrier and travel wasn’t something to undertake lightly.

Life in the bottom of the valley would have been different from up on top and while their respective inhabitants wouldn’t have been alien to each other, even moving such relatively short distances would have required a significant effort.

Remember that this was a time when there was far less knowledge of the world beyond what you might have personally witnessed – no Internet, no TV, no radio, no photography let alone moving pictures, few books and so on – and you realise that from our modern standpoint you cannot even begin to imagine what life was like then. You cannot unlearn and it’s futile to even try; your brain has been formed by different influences; you can try to be empathetic but you’re doing so from a modern start-point.

We can’t go back, we can only move on. Insofar as progress implies change for the better, it’s important to not confuse moving on with progress; ‘moving on’ is merely change.