The past and present have a very odd relationship. You would think that once something happens that it is finished and unchanging, yet while you cannot change the events of the past, as time moves on, things happen which change your views of the past, and you sometimes learn something about the past that puts things in a different light. Meanwhile the past changes the present.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my high school Latin teacher. One thing that he reinforced in me was a respect for both law and history, and a deep appreciation for classical Roman learning. Something that I wish I could do at some point would be to regain my fluency in Latin, but I still find the oratory of Cicero against the Catiline conspiracy to be stirring, and I still think deeply about the implications of the period between the Republic and the Empire to current events, and I also think much about the historical processes which led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The thing that you get when you read classical texts is that people 2000 years ago were still people, with motivations and ambitions that are still recognizable today. It’s important when living in a period of time in which everything is changing to realize that a lot of the important things, in fact probably most of the important things, haven’t changed in all of that time.
In thinking about Roman history, my sense is that the history and philosophy of classical Rome and that of classical China aren’t very far apart, and one of the things that civilization has lost is a sense of connection with its roots.