I have been reading The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett (1908). Near the beginning of the book, the author describes how the townspeople lived in

“An era so dark and backward that one might wonder how people could sleep in their beds at night for thinking about their sad state….They never even suspected that they were not quite modern and quite awake. They thought that the intellectual, the industrial, and the social movements had gone about as far as these movements could go, and they were amazed at their own progress….Having too little faith and too much conceit, they were content to look behind and make comparisons with the past. They did not foresee the miraculous generation which is us.”

How often do we look to the past and compare ourselves or make judgment about historical others? How often do we forget that future others likely will judge us in the same ways! Our present reality too quickly will become a past. How do we think people in the future will imagine us and interpret our beliefs and intentions? Reflections on Bennett’s (albeit tongue in cheek) words may help us to be aware of and evaluate our own tendencies toward presentism.

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